Living behind the walls
In the heart of Bangkok, Mahakan Fort marks the entrance to the Royal City, also called Ratanakosin Island. Once, the city was encircled by a wall punctuated by 14 such forts and 16 gates and further protected by a canal, but today Mahakan Fort is one of only two such towers that remain from the original late 18th century walls. In between the mighty walls and the river, is a community that for more than six generations has taken care of this heritage place and guarded its magical atmosphere reminiscent of older times. No traffic noise in the narrow streets crowded by small shops and places to relax.
In recent years, however, the Fort Mahakan community has had to fight for its own survival as plans of the city administration’s to transform their space in a public park progress. Many homes have been demolished, but the community does not want to give up. As community leader Tawatchai Woramahakun puts it “they do not want to leave the homes they have lived in for several decades. They did not object to the city’s plans but wish a community model where they can take part in managing and conserving the Fort as a tourist attraction.” Will authorities grant this wish, or as the photographer and many other fear a piece of Bangkok history and the Mahakan community that embodies it are about to disappear.
Janusz Daga is a photographer and journalist born in Bolzano, Italy and now based in Bangkok, Thailand. He worked for many years as Art Director in advertising agencies and life-style journalist in Milano. Four years ago he moved to Asia to pursue his passion, photography and cover social issues.