Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the mothers and children of Indonesia’s Floating Market

Photographer Tubagus Tisna Suherman has a real knack for capturing the vibrancy and colour of everyday life in his native country, Indonesia.

The river is a hive of activity from 6am. Image by Tubagus Tisna Suherman

His latest series, ‘Children in their Mother’s World-Work’, offers a heart-warming and intimate glimpse into the relationships forged along the Martapura River. Specifically, he’s focused on the women who work in the bustling floating market there, and their children, who often join them on their boats from a young age.

Traders sell all kinds of food and merchandise from their boats. Image by Tubagus Tisna Suherman

“Lok Baintan Floating Market takes place every day on the Martapura River, in the Banjar District of South Kalimantan province”, Tubagus tells Lonely Planet. “It has a 500-year-old legacy, and is my favourite place to take photos. I can capture millions of human characters there.” Kicking off at 6am every morning, the market is a constant hive of activity, sounds and smells, as local traders from the Banjar community – one of Kalimantan’s ethnic groups – row up and down the river, selling their wares. They wear traditional dress, and distinctive, wide-brimmed pandanus hats.

Youngsters join their mothers on the busy river. Image by Tubagus Tisna Suherman

“The traders approach in their klotok [traditional boats]”, says Tubagus, “and hawk their goods, ranging from fruit and vegetables to traditional snacks. They also sell different kinds of fish, rice, eggs, cooking oil, sugar, chili, and garlic. They buy each other’s merchandise and commodities too, to meet their household needs. Before money became a method of payment, the Banjar people bartered goods to fulfill their daily requirements.”

Delighted youngsters help steer their mothers boats. Image by Tubagus Tisna Suherman

What struck Tubagus about the market was that the traders tended to be female, and that they would often have their young children in tow. This led to him capturing a series of incredibly sweet shots, that see smiling youngsters join their mothers on the busy river. Whether they’re helping to row the boat, assisting in lucrative business deals or merely enjoying time well spent with Mum, the pictures offer an endearing snapshot of life in this bustling riverside community. Follow Tubagus on Instagram for more shots of Indonesian life.