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Urban Jungle: Megacities in Asia

What is it like to live in a megacity? To have more than ten million fellow citizens? How do you get from home to work, is there enough green space around and are there enough facilities to relax? These are some of the questions addressed in the exhibition Urban Jungle: Megacities in Asia, on view from 15 September until 14 January 2018. Images from some of Asia’s largest metropolises from top photographer Martin Roemers are paired with vintage photographs of the same cities, as well as with some outstanding photobooks.

Megacities in Asia

More and more people are living in large cities and this is especially true of Asia. The majority of the world’s megacities are to be found in India, China, Japan and neighbouring countries. Tokyo tops every other city with more than 38 million inhabitants but the United Nations predicts that many Asian cities will grow exponentially in the next decade, either randomly, like Mumbai and Jakarta, or meticulously planned, like the cities in China. These cities are presented here in a visual way, as images of bristling urban life, through a wide range of captivating photographs.

Martin Roemers

Central to this exhibition are five photographs by Martin Roemers, recently acquired by Leiden University Libraries. Roemers (1962) is a an acclaimed Dutch photographer who, after having portrayed the face of warfare in several corners of the world, turned to the megacity as a paradigm of contemporary city life. His book Metropolis (2015) portrays cities from around the world, with Asia taking the lead. A characteristic of Roemers’ photographs is the combination of time induced blurriness with razor sharp details, creating the illusion that for one second the world stopped turning, in order to let the artist zoom in on one isolated detail.  His dazzling images are combined with older photographs from  Asian megacities and with modern and contemporary photobooks.

Leiden Asia Year

Leiden University is the place in the Netherlands where unique knowledge on Asia is brought together in teaching and research. On 14 September 2017 the University will open its new Asian Library, internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading centres of expertise on Asia. The new library consolidates all the Asia collections for students, researchers and other interested parties under one roof. The Leiden Asia Year celebrates this achievement. Museums, institutions and other partners in Leiden will be contributing to the Leiden Asia Year Leiden Asia Year 2017 with special performances and exhibitions or other events focusing on Asia.


Urban Jungle: Megacities in Asia
15 September 2017 - 14 January 2018
Exhibition Room Universitity Library
Witte Singel 27
Open: Monday-Friday 08.30-24.00 hours and Saturday-Sunday 10.00-23.00 hours (free access). Holidays closed.