The clean lines of low dirt mounds have calmed down now that burials have slowed – a relief for cemetery staff after months of influx of fresh graves amid a boom.
Pops of color stand out in a sea of brown earth, helping future visitors find their loved ones. Other tombs have pictures of the dead wrapped in plastic to protect them from the elements.
Here a grave is covered with a rainbow of flowers; In addition, a large red umbrella is securely fastened to a headstone so that it does not fly off. The red and white Indonesian flag is placed proudly next to several others.
Rorotan Cemetery is divided by religion. In the Christian square, several white wooden crosses are topped with statues of the Virgin Mary, her eyes lowered. In some the beads of the garland are wrapped over the markers. They probably belonged to the deceased. Maybe they caught them dying.
In the Muslim section, flowers and flat wooden tombstones capture the last rays of the sun. A strong black sign declares these COVID-19 casualties as “ciuhada” – a common Indonesian spelling of the Arabic word for martyrs. A young man in a facemask sits on the ground beside a nearby grave, his fingers woven together, as the light fades towards dusk.
The Jakarta government approved and dedicated land at Rorotan Cemetery to victims of the virus in March. As of June, the country had over 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. This grim total exceeded 100,000 on 4 August.
All told, at least 82,000 Indonesians died from June to August as the pandemic spread. The true number is believed to be even higher due to Indonesia’s low testing and tracing rate.
Jakarta – along with many other regions on Java, the most populous island in Indonesia’s vast archipelago – was one of the hot spots.
Niko, a security officer at the cemetery who goes by one name, says that workers don’t pick up cemetery souvenirs until they’re broken, or the flowers are completely wilted.
He said he “feels grateful” the boom is over and caregivers can focus on keeping things clean, creating a comfortable space for those who died in the heat and chaos, and cemetery prayers. does not progress.