Lest you think I’m being nostalgic, let me set you straight – these old lanes house some of the most decrepit, dangerous and unhygenic dwellings in the city. Tiny, dark, dank, dripping alleyways separate houses by the width of two people standing shoulder to shoulder, illegal wiring sprouts from every post like wild black ivy, crawling over every wall and through every window. Homes rarely have indoor plumbing, and residents shuffle back and forth to the public facilities to empty their chamber pots. Illegal house extensions encroach in every possible direction from the original dwelling – upwards, backwards, sideways, cantilevered out over the laneway, crammed into the spaces between houses, and thrusting upwards through the roof.
Yesterday I had the rare opportuity to visit and photograph a neighbourhood where demolition is imminent – not months or even weeks away, but days away. I expected to find empty rooms, piles of discarded rubbish, and mounds of cardboard boxes. Instead, what I saw was life being lived one hundred percent to the fullest, right up to the very last minute. An outdoor wet market was in full swing, everyone buying their daily supplies of fruit, vegetables, fish and chicken, and an enormous indoor wet market was also thriving. Washing had been hung out to dry after three days of heavy rain, and in short, there was very little sign of anyone going anywhere. But in the quieter corners, there was a heavy sense of finality. The residents I spoke to said they planned to stay until forced to go, despite this, they seemed stoically resigned to moving out, and moving on.
Today I want to show you the lanes themselves, and tomorrow, the wet markets and their vendors.