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Pasar Cepit: The Customary of Gotong-Royong in Traditional Marketplace

It seems business as usual in Pasar Cepit, a small and traditional marketplace named by the local people of Magetan City, a rural town in East Java Indonesia. Housewives of all ages visit Pasar Cepit in the morning to do daily grocery shopping. Pasar Cepit is a quite unique marketplace. Pasar Cepit literally means sandwiched marketplace, as it emerges along alleys within a settlement and some of the merchants’ trading areas even take place on the part of terraces that belong to local houses. Most of the merchants are outsiders and they do not live in this settlement, but as time goes by, some residents are also becoming merchants. This marketplace opens for business from early morning until noon on every single day, except on some holidays. The merchants usually start to assemble their stalls on 6 am and begin to wrap up around mid-day. One who visits this place in the evening can only assumes that it is just an ordinary settlement area instead of a marketplace since most of the merchants are peddlers who do not own any permanent kiosks. Each merchant only has a small area of trading with an over-head canopy.

It becomes even more special due to its nature as a traditional marketplace that has retained through local people’s ascendancies –both the merchants and the settlement residents –without any government’s intervention. People of Pasar Cepit independently manage their own businesses through a tradition and customary of working together within the community that is usually called gotong-royong in Indonesia. Most of the merchants do not pay any rent to the house, especially the petty ones. Instead, all of the merchants contribute to voluntary-based fees that is collected every other day and then managed by the resident’s front-runner. The merchants deliberately choose the amount of the fee and also feel free to wether or not contributing that day. The collective amount of money is mainly allocated for the daily payment of the services to dump the waste. The rest sum of cash is deposited for collective saving that is usually allocated for annual built-environment upgrading, such as annual valleys paving.

The merchants do their trading activities just like other usual merchants and as well as the residents who do their mundane home life just like other normal dwellers. Despite any rent money is received by the residents from the merchants

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who occupy some outer space of their houses, the residents do not mind at all and Pasar Cepit is still operating for almost these three decades. The customary of gotong-royong becomes the spirit of the people. They own Pasar Cepit and always keep working together. The residents feel blessed because they have the opportunity to do altruistic action by providing trading area for the merchants. On the other hand, some of the residents also have sort of small income by becoming part-time sellers. The merchants always keep the area clean by tidying up before going home every single day.

The merchants sell entahan or raw foodstuffs such as vegetables, rice, chicken meat, beef, and other producers, some others sell atengan or ready-to-serve meals, and also many kinds of traditional snacks. Pasar Cepit conceivably just a small traditional market, but it provides and serves the daily staple for the communities. A traditional marketplace is not just a place to sell and buy. The merchants and their clients always meet up and some kinds of conversations always happening every now and then. Last but not least, Pasar Cepit also represent the customary and tradition of gotong-royong which is the heart of the Indonesian people.


Pasar Cepit in the morning (left) and at noon (right)

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Active traveller with a love for Asian food and Japanese anime.