Dec 04, 2023 Last Updated 7:41 AM, Dec 4, 2023

Sand rafts - a photo essay

Sand rafts - a photo essay

Along the Opak River in Pundong, near Bantul, Yogyakarta, locals trade their sweat for a pile of sand.

Danu Primanto

The dry season arrives. The water is reluctant to soak the dry earth, but Nature forces it deep down into the grainy soil at the river’s edge. The locals watch this every year; they know what the season brings.

As the spring dries up, the estuary narrows. Sand coats the riverbank and is clearly visible all along its bed. In the time of drought sand replaces rice.


After wading in the river all day, the worker’s clothes are hung out to dry.


The workers usually take a break at around 10.30am. This warung was established by one of their neighbours from the village of Pundong.


Stones are separated from the sand and piled at the river’s edge. One truckload of sand is worth about Rp. 80-90.000,00 (just under USD9). It will be used in the area of South Yogyakarta.


The river bank is strengthened against the coming floodwaters so that the sand rafts can be used safely.


A farmer carries river water to his fields. Along the riverbank there is no need for irrigation systems.


A metal bucket with holes is used to sieve the sand, which is removed manually from the river.


Old tyre-tubes are used in the construction of the rafts.


Up to their shoulders, these workers are sifting sand in the Opak River.


The black, wet sand is moved to trucks that will take it to the depots. Five or six trucks like these come to the work sites each day.


When the raft is packed full, it is pushed against the current to the riverbank.


The sand is shifted manually from the rafts to the bank. There are no cranes or heavy machinery here.


Gravel is heavier than sand, and doesn’t raise such a good price. But it can still be sold by the truckload.


It only takes 20-30 minutes to shift the sand from the riverbank to the truck. The workers are paid once it has been moved.


A worker rests on a mound of sand.


An empty raft is left behind while the workers take a break. It can be borrowed for free by locals when not in use.


A battered old truck struggles to climb the bank and take the sand to its destination.     ii

Danu Primanto ( ) was born in Yogyakarta, but grew up in Gresik, East Java. He began his career in architecture but soon decided to follow his passion for journalism and the arts. He now works as a photojournalist.

Inside Indonesia 91: Jan-Mar 2008

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