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PAOTERE: GONE FISHING

Makassar, Indonesia
1 January 2015


Pao-Tair-ray

Think of Pelabuhan Paotere (Paotere Harbour) in Makassar, Indonesia, as a kind of bus interchange. Large traditional pinisi schooners, once the purview of Bugis sailors, now ply between one of Makassar’s two traditional ports and the outlying islands, ferrying people and goods back and forth. There is no fixed schedule, unfortunately, and potential passengers can wait on the boats for a few days until they fill up either with returning islanders or essential commodities traded or purchased in the large markets that Makaassar, nestled on the island of South Sulawesi, is famous for.

In the 19th century, Bugis perahus (boats), a smaller version of the pinisi, were loaded with goods from Singapore carrying these to Indonesian islands and stopping at remote ports along the route. From Indonesia, they gathered birds-of-paradise feathers, sandalwood, spices, gold and pepper to sell them at significant profit in Singapore to Chinese and Indian merchants. Today, the trade is mostly within the islands and larger ports such as Makassar, with cargo such as timber, house tiles, rice, sugar, motorcycles and even crates of cigarettes.

Next to the harbour is a fishermen’s village (kampung pajjaku) that started out as a series of stilt houses by the waterfront and gradually sprawled back into the land.

A local fishing market is the focal point of the village, and retailers and marketeers come here to grab the fish as soon they come off the boat. This is still very much an occupation that is the province of men, and it seems pretty obvious that it‘s a generational practice, judging by the young boys diving like seals on and off the boats, and carrying little baskets filled with anchovies and squid to the waiting traders. The occasional appearance of a larger fish slapping onto the docks draws a triumphant cheer from the surrounding boats.

Of course, a visit to a fish market will not be complete without closing the circle and enjoying some ikan bakar (fried fish) charcoal fried to sizzling perfection.

Text & Photos: Marc

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