People need red bricks for buildings. Trowulan in Mojokerto regency, East Java, is famous as a brick producer, especially because the remnants of the ancient Majapahit kingdom, built with red bricks, were found there.
Since then, people living in Trowulan have become brick makers and their bricks are being distributed across Java Island.
The people of Trowulan keep to the traditional way of producing bricks, starting with a ritual ceremony to the final firing process.
They mix clay, sand, husks and bran to produce good quality bricks. However, they changed the firing from using wood to burning rubber or plastic because of the scarcity of wood.
Each brick maker earns Rp 100,000 (US$7.70) per 1,000 bricks produced. During the rainy season, a group of two to three people can produce 50,000 dried bricks in three months. During the dry season, they can make 80,000 bricks. The firing takes at least seven days and after that the bricks are cooled down for two weeks before they are ready to go to market.
Back during the industry’s heyday, there were more than 100 people in the brick business, according to the association. However, due to the technology advancement, consumers have shifted to industrial bricks that have better quality, are less expensive and also lighter. Now, there are only 10 people involved in the brick business.
A decree from the Education and Culture Ministry that declared Trowulan a part of the nation’s cultural heritage has put the brick businesses at the edge of ruin. The decree was issued because a lot of brick makers did not report to the Trowulan Cultural Heritage Agency when they found ancient relics as they dug for materials. Instead, they often sold the artefacts to collectors. There were also times when they did not realize that the relics were valuable and destroyed them.
The brick makers mostly found raw materials not far from temples or other historic sites in Trowulan and the heritage agency has been unable to ban them from taking the soil because making bricks is their only means of livelihood. [yan]