The bodybuilder, muscles shiny with baby oil, hoists a stack of roof tiles over his head. He clenches his muscles, strikes a pose and revels in the applause. The audience roars with appreciation as multicoloured spotlights glint off his body. Dozens compete in the annual bodybuilding competition at the Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF) in Indonesia, a non-profit organisation focused on the arts and cultural activities. The factory is based in Majalengka, a district in West Java province, and all of the men taking part work for traditional roof-tiling factories known as jebor . At the Jatiwangi building, the competitors take off their clothes, put on dark blue shorts, and rub oil over their bodies. The master of ceremonies begins the contest at about 7pm, and the audience on the first and second floors of the auditorium shout out the names of their favourite participants. Each competitor strides onto the stage and strikes five poses. They begin with three free poses, and pose with roof tiles instead of barbells for the final two. The stage measures three metres by 10 metres, and the competitors lift the tiles over their heads or to their sides. Some of the contestants had originally been unsure about which poses to choose and turned to the internet to find out. “I found out on YouTube before performing,” says Budi Hartono, 30. In the end he chose a front double-bicep pose. To attract the judges’ attention, a number of contestants have bitten and broken the tiles and posed with the pieces. Most, though, simply try to present their bodies in the best possible way, so they look strong. Another contestant, Bubun Gunawan, 33, says his body is sturdy and muscled thanks to his work in the factory, estimating that he lifts as many as 20,000 tiles with his partner each day. This year was the first time he had taken part in the bodybuilding contest , which was launched in 2015. “I take the roof tiles from the warehouse onto the truck to be delivered to the shop or the consumer’s house,” he says. “Almost every day, I lift roof tiles into four pickup trucks.” Jatiwangi has been the centre of roof tile production in West Java since 1905 and, though clay tiles from the area are considered to be some of the best in Indonesia, manufacturing peaked between 1970 and 2000 and there has been declining interest in tile-making as a profession. “The tiles produced in Jatiwangi were once marketed around the islands of Indonesia , including in Sumatra and Kalimantan,” says the chairman of the Jatiwangi Roof-Tile Entrepreneurs Association, H. Apip Iping April. “They even attracted customers from several countries in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia and Brunei.” That time, though, is over. Tile factories have been on the decline because of labour shortages and a shrinking market – there are now only about 130 factories employing 100-300 workers, down from more than 550 factories in the 1990s. Younger people now prefer jobs in garment factories, which they see as more comfortable places to work, leaving a shrinking older generation to continue to work with clay. “Making roof tiles is always dealing with soil and it is considered dirty by the youth, especially in hot weather when the work is sweaty,” says Apip. “So they don’t want to work in tile manufacturing. If anyone wants to, it’s because he has been forced to because there’s no other work.” Meanwhile, after decades of mining, the quality of the clay around Jatiwangi has declined. The raw material has to be imported from elsewhere, adding to the cost of production. Technological advances have also given birth to new competitors for the traditional industry, and customers often prefer affordable light steel or asbestos for their roofs because of lower prices. These factors have made it difficult for the industry to develop, and workers live in the shadow of further factory closures. “Bodybuilding contests are a reminder that tiles are not only a commodity – they have become tied to the identity of the Jatiwangi people,” says Ila Syurkila Syarif, chairman of the tiles-focused Museum Genteng Jatiwangi and one of the organisers of the bodybuilding competition. “We want to show younger generations that Jatiwangi has a great history in the production of roof tiles. This contest is also held to show appreciation to the workers. Until now, only the owner and the name of the factory were known to the public. Through this annual event, the community will also get to know the people behind the tile-making.” The number of contest participants varies. In the first event in 2015, 46 workers took part. The number rose to 65 the following year, and there were 70 competitors in 2017. This year, with restrictions in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic , only 29 workers took to the stage. The winner takes home a cash prize of 2.5 million rupiah (US$170). “In past events, many participants registered on the day of the contest,” says competition organiser Ila. “They were eager to participate after seeing their friends getting ready backstage. We accept their registrations because the purpose of this event is to maintain togetherness in jebor .” Some men have competed several times. One repeat competitor is Eka Rika, 33, who has worked in a tile factory for 15 years, transporting and shaping clay. He has taken part in the bodybuilding competition five times. “I want my family to be proud of me,” he says ahead of this year’s competition. “I won third place in 2019, but my dream is to win first place. If I fail again this year, I will keep trying until I get it.” The location of the competition changes annually, with the factory that employs the winner becoming the host venue the following year. Before Covid-19, thousands of spectators would show up to cheer their fellow factory workers on. The contest is not without its dark side, and the potential of winning has encouraged cheating. Some factories have been accused of hiring “foreign” contestants. There were suspicions that one participant this year, who made it into the finals, sculpted his body not by his activities as a jebor worker, but through exercising at a gym. To determine his eligibility, the committee asked him various questions regarding the roof tile-making process. When he was unable to answer them he was disqualified. This year, a few days before the final round of the contest, photo shoots were arranged at various factories for the participants. The jury assessed the photos in an initial elimination stage, with 20 men making it through the round. “The Covid-19 pandemic pushed us to adapt,” says Ila. “We made a few changes to the system. For health protocols, the contest was held in the Jatiwangi Art Factory hall.” The audience was also limited, and only the relatives of the participants were allowed to enter the contest area. Their seats were spaced to prevent physical contact. It was almost midnight before the winner was announced. With a wide smile, Eka Rika raised his trophy high in the air. He had finally accomplished his dream of placing first in the competition.