Invisible People contains the stories of 53 poor, stigmatized and marginal Indonesians. It includes the stories of paraplegics; sex workers; landless peasants; transsexuals; widows, divorcees and abandoned women; sea-dwelling, semi-nomadic Bajau fishers and pirates; drug users in urban slums; Papuans living with HIV and dying of AIDS; beggars and others disabled and disfigured by leprosy. The stories were collected and transcribed by Irfan Kortschak. The book contains black and white images of the subjects and their communities by Poriaman Sitanggang. Invisible People was published by the Lontar Foundation on behalf of the PNPM Support Group.
In 2008, Mercy Corps in Indonesia invited Josh Estey and Irfan to produce a book profiling the lives of nineteen street vendors in Jakarta. We started with a very broad working definition of what a “street vendor” was. Basically, we agreed that it was anyone selling goods or services from an informal outlet on the street, whether from fixed premises in a ramshackle stall or wandering as an itinerant. We deliberately looked for women household heads; street children; disabled vendors; people with criminal records; people involved in trash disposal. We included some vendors who lived in desperate poverty. There were others who were surprisingly rich. We wanted to show that Jakarta’s street vendors are a diverse bunch of people.
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Who is Irfan Kortschak?
I first came to Indonesia after I completed a degree in Indonesian area studies at the University of Melbourne, when I received an Indonesian government scholarship to study Javanese and performing arts in Solo, Central Java. Since then, I’ve traveled through every major region of Indonesia, working as a writer, editor, communications specialist, journalist and translator for development agencies, civil society organizations, media outlets, and business organizations. I’ve written a few books and numerous articles and been involved in the preparation of academic documents, research reports, fund raising proposals, corporate profiles, annual reports, advertising copy, literary writing, profiles and speeches. Somewhere a long the way, I picked up a Master’s degree in international and community development.
A while back, I applied for a project at an interesting NGO based in Bali and involved in environmental and social issues throughout the archipelago. As part of the application, they asked me to make a one-minute video explaining why I wanted to be involved. Here’s the video: