Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Batik took to the catwalk Tuesday in a flashy display of modern fashion during the opening of the West Java Batik Exhibition at the Textile Museum in Central Jakarta.
"I thought batik only came from Central Java. I never heard of West Java batik before," said a visitor to the exhibition, which is being held until Nov. 23.
West Java Batik, based on a tradition dating back to 1430, is not as well known as batik from Solo, Yogyakarta and Pekalongan.
"Only a few people know that West Java has its own traditional batik, which comprises the history and philosophy of the region in its beautiful motifs," said Dyah Damayanti, the head of the museum.
The exhibition, titled "West Java Tradition", displays about 100 various kinds of batik from several areas in West Java, such as Tasikmalaya, Ciamis, Garut, Cirebon, Bandung and Indramayu.
"In some West Java areas, batik is already extinct, like batik Ciamis," Dyah said.
West Java Batik features motifs derived from the Sunda culture, which was influenced by both Hindu and Islam as well as cultures from China, India and the Netherlands.
Among the most recognizable of the West Java batik motifs are buketan galang gasi, parang kembang, lunglungan, urang ayu and mega mendung.
West Java batik is different from Central Java batik because of its use of vibrant colors like green, red, orange and blue.
Antique batik fabrics are on display at the exhibition, including a rare 300-year-old banner from Cirebon that features Arabic calligraphy.
"We hope that this event will inform visitors that Indonesia has many places with a unique batik style," Dyah said.
The fashion show featured the designs of several prominent batik designers and producers in Indonesia, such as Danar Hadi, Komar, Tiga Putri and Warna Alam Roso.
The exhibition is the result of a scenography workshop held in cooperation with the Dutch government. (naf)
Jl. KS Tubun No. 4
Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta
Tuesday - Thursday, Saturday - Sunday
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Monday and public holidays: closed
This year there have also been arguments over the ownership of the islands Sipidan and Ligitan, the song “Rasa Sayange,” the treatment of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia and Bali’s pendet dance, which was featured in a Discovery Channel promotion for a TV show about Malaysia.
During each spat, diplomatic relations between the countries become tense, nationalism rises and nicknames are invented. This year, incensed Indonesians have started calling their neighbor “Maling-sia,” a play on the Indonesian word meaning thief, and an offensive parody of Indonesia’s national anthem was uploaded to a Malaysian Web site. A vigilante group has also formed in Jakarta, claiming that it would invade Malaysia on Thursday and wage war.
But Indonesia can at least claim victory in the batik wars when Unesco today adds Indonesia’s batik to a global list of Intangible Cultural Heritage items.
To celebrate that validation, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked all Indonesians to wear batik on Friday.
Asmoro Damais, an expert on batik who has consulted with various cultural institutions on the craft and collects historic batik fabric, specifically the Pekalongan style, since 1970, said Indonesians should be proud of the achievement.
The government and supporting institutions had to go through complicated processes to qualify for the cultural body’s recognition, she said. The first approach to Unesco was the idea of Iman Sucipto Umar of the Kadin Indonesia Foundation.
Museum head Indra Riawan also expressed his satisfaction at the recognition.
“As the head of Museum Tekstil [Textile] and as an Indonesian, I feel very proud of this news. It’s so special because the world has finally given recognition to one of our cultural heritage items,” he said.
“Thank God for this achievement,” said Indra Tjahjani, a batik expert and lecturer on the textile, who has been involved in research on the craft for nine years.
“But, it’s only a start.
“It’s important for the government to set up better strategies to improve the quality of our batik industry to compete in the international market, and also for the welfare of our batik makers,” she said.
However, Asmoro said that to say batik is from Indonesia is a little misleading.
“Batik is a technique of designing cloth through wax-dipping and dying which is available in many countries of the world,” she said.
Indra Tjahjani said that in India, for example, the same kind of technique has long been widely used.
“Although it’s not called ‘batik’ in other countries.
“I’m not sure where batik is really from, I’m still doing research on that. But I believe Indonesia’s batik is the best quality of all,” she said.
Addressing the dispute with Malaysia, Indra Tjahjani advised Indonesians to see the issue clearly and wisely. “We can say that batik is from Indonesia. If it really is from Indonesia then it’s very possible that perhaps some Indonesians took the technique of batik to Malaysia or other countries many years ago,” she said.
“What’s more important is to copyright batik patterns. The government can copyright batik as part of our culture, but there are thousands of batik patterns that can easily be copied by people from other countries.”
“I hope that Unesco’s recognition of our batik will change people’s perception on batik and other cultural elements,” Asmoro said. “I want that with this recognition, Indonesians and government institutions will appreciate batik better. Not only by wearing batik, but also collecting and studying batik comprehensively.”
Indra Riawan said he hoped the Unesco move would also help attract visitors to see the Textile Museum’s collections. He said that although the museum was not well-known and could be difficult to locate, its main problem lay in the fact that people’s interest in batik and other cultural properties is low.
“That’s why we plan to have creative events to attract young people.”
He and his staff have events planned that include batik workshops and fashion shows.
“We have this very special program on Oct. 24. We are going to break MURI’s [Museum of Records Indonesia] attendance record by having 1,500 students make batik patterns at the same time,” Indra Riawan said.
As a part-time lecturer at universities, Indra Tjahjani has also been encouraging her students to take note of their culture and assigns them projects that are related to Indonesia’s culture.
“I find my strategy works. My students become aware of their cultural heritage and gain an interest in learning more about it,” she said.
A year ago, inspired by her students and her passion for batik, she started a campaign called Mbatik Yuuuk (Let’s make batik). Through this she is teaching youths how to create batik patterns, to understand the philosophy behind the designs and other aspects of the craft.
“Many people claim they know batik, but they actually don’t know the philosophy of each pattern,” she said.
“Did you know that in the old times, all batik makers had to fast from eating and drinking before creating a batik pattern.
“Making batik was that sacred,” she said.
But then again, how well do we really know batik? Last Thursday to Saturday, PT Batik Danar Hadi, a leading producer of batik clothing in Indonesia, tried to help improve that knowledge.
On Thursday, a high tea fashion show was organized at the Grand Sahid Jaya, Jakarta. Along with the fashion show, 200 pieces from the batik collection of H Santosa Doellah, the founder of Danar Hadi, were also showcased in an exhibition at the Solo Lounge of the hotel.
The rest of the collection, which contains nearly 10,000 pieces of rare batik, is currently stored at the House of Danar Hadi museum in Surakarta, Central Java.
“The exhibition titled ‘The History of Indonesian Batik,’ aims to introduce and educate Indonesian people about the various motifs and patterns influenced by the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and other foreign cultures that came to Indonesia,” said Diana Santosa, the managing director of Danar Hadi.
Before high tea, guests were offered guided tours of the collection to learn about the historical conditions and cultural exchanges that influenced particular motifs and patterns.
One style that was influenced by Chinese traders, for example, incorporates Chinese mythological creatures, such as dragons, phoenixes and quilin , a type of Chinese unicorn, in its designs.
The Djawa Hokokai batik, produced between 1942 and 1945 during the Japanese occupation, depicts Japanese flowers combined with the traditional pattern of parang (long knife) and kawung (geometrical circular pattern).
Dutch women in the early 19th century preferred bright floral patterns with bird and butterflies.
“Usually, people just follow the trends without really understanding the meaning or history behind it,” said Ayu Tresna, who attended the event. “With this exhibition, we can begin to understand the history of batik and the intricate process involved in making batik.”
Shanti Setyaningrum, the public relations manager of Grand Sahid Jaya, said that “in the old days, batik was only used for uniforms or traditional clothing.
“But now, we can see batik in cocktail dresses and formal jackets. I hope this program can help to spread the popularity of batik in today’s fashions,” she added.
The first day of the show featured 18 women’s hand-painted and hand-stamped batik pieces designed by Ainun Nisyah, Priyo Octaviano and Denny Wirawan.
Ainun Nisyah, Danar Hadi’s in-house fashion designer, showcased modified kebaya (an Indonesian traditional blouse) with knee-length sarongs. Using hand-woven batik of brilliant colors, typical of the Cirebon area Central Java, Ainun’s dresses had a feminine yet casual flair that does not look out of place in formal occasions.
“Cirebon’s batik is usually more bright and colorful,” Diana said. “The water in the coastal area is salty, which brings out the color in each cloth.”
Priyo Octaviano, a young Indonesian fashion designer, presented hand-woven and chiffon blouses with bold, intricate patterns of Parang Sarpo, a batik motif created by artists of the Mangkunegaran palace in Solo, Central Java, which were combined with miniskirts or fitted trousers.
“He uses a deconstructive method to design his clothes,” Diana said. “He puts the fabric onto a mannequin and starts cutting and sewing right away. That way, there will never be two designs the same.”
Glamor seemed to be the keynote of Denny Wirawan’s fashion style. He transformed silk and chiffon with patterns of Djawa Hokokai and Lokcan, a Chinese influenced motif, into flowing blouses accentuated with oversized bows, and elegant empire-cut dresses. Gemstone and bead appliques on the neckline give a luxurious feel to the pieces.
Actress Christine Hakim, who also attended the high tea, said she was impressed with the fashion show.
“Batik lovers like me are being presented with many more choices. We can now see that batik is not only for traditional kebaya. Fashion shows like this one help to convey the fact that batik has now taken various styles and designs that are more casual and comfortable for daily wear,” she said.
Rain washed over the yard at Sevilla International School in Pulo Mas, East Jakarta, on Saturday. But it was not enough to dampen the spirits of students anticipating a visit from the Indonesian Museum of Records (better known by its acronym, MURI).
More than a thousand people had gathered to try and break the MURI record for the most people drawing batik designs in wax simultaneously.
The event was named “Pagelaran Batik 1,500 Canting” (“Batik Show of 1,500 Canting”), after the small pens used to apply the wax for batik, called canting, and the school’s target of 1,500 participants.
The previous record was set in 2007, with 1,130 participants.
Based on a manual count by a MURI official, Sevilla International School broke the earlier record by more than 500 participants, as 1,780 people joined in the batik-making process.
“This event is one way we can show our love for batik, as well being an effort to raise the younger generation’s awareness of batik as part of the internationally recognized cultural heritage,” said Sudhamek AWS, president director of the school.
Batik was recently recognized by the United Nations’ cultural branch, Unesco, as part of the world’s intangible heritage.
“The point of this event is not merely to get the certificate from MURI,” Sudhamek said. “It’s about how to not only preserve batik, which has been around for thousands of years, but also to develop it further through the young generation.”
Robertus Budi Setiono, the school’s chief operational officer, said batik studies would be incorporated into the school’s curriculum, “so that the students can know and appreciate batik from an early age.”
Saturday’s participants comprised students at the school, ranging from kindergarten to high school, as well as their friends and families.
Dressed in uniform white T-shirts, they sat on the bare concrete or stretches of grass throughout the school working on their designs.
The batik makers were divided into groups of 10. Each participant was given a canting and a square of cloth marked out with a classic batik design.
A total of 150 meters of cloth and 30 kilograms of wax were distributed during the event, with each group sharing a pot of wax with an open flame.
Participants didn’t try their hand at dipping their cloth squares into colored dyes, which was probably a good thing as a big mess might have ensued.
Dealing with the wax alone was a messy business. On a number of occasions a school official armed with a fire extinguisher was called upon to put out a fire that had started in one of the wax pots.
But aside from that, the event went smoothly.
A fifth-grader, who did not want to give his name because he was “shy,” was completely absorbed in the process, clutching a canting in his right hand and an almost-finished cloth in the left.
He said it was his first shot at making batik. Asked how he felt about the canting process, the boy responded, “It’s hard, but fun!”
But about three years ago, triggered by cultural conflict with Malaysia, this nation’s youth started to embrace batik.
More recently, batik expert Indra Tjahjani, concerned that people lacked a proper understanding of their cultural heritage, started a campaign called Mbatik Yuuuk (Let’s Make Batik) in October 2008.
Indra said she has been passionately involved in batik research for nine years and that she is happy that young people have come to view batik differently over time.
“Now we have many different kinds of batik, which is good news. But it’s sad that most people don’t really appreciate the story behind the making of batik,” she said.
Through Mbatik Yuuuk, Indra runs workshops on how to create batik patterns. She always opens her sessions with a short discussion of the history and philosophy of batik, different types of batik, materials and processes. She also gives participants tips on choosing suitable patterns for different occasions.
“Most people don’t know that there’s actually a philosophy behind each batik pattern,” Indra said.
She explained that in the past batik makers were required to fast before they began their work, which was once considered to be a sacred activity.
Mbatik Yuuuk workshops are conducted regularly, including once every month at Museum Bank Mandiri. Participants are usually between 20- and 40-years-old and come from a diverse range of backgrounds, Indra said.
In the workshops each participant chooses which kind of fabric they want for their batik designs — handkerchief, scarf or tee-shirt. Participants pay fees to cover the cost of equipment: Rp 70,000 for a handkerchief, Rp 140,000 for a scarf and Rp 145,000 for a tee-shirt.
Each workshop consists of at least 20 people and usually lasts between two and three hours “depending on the enthusiasm of the trainees.”
One recent participant, Mudin Em, said he was excited about what he learned in the workshop because he had never realized how much there was to know about batik. “It never occurred to me that making batik was so difficult. It was also very interesting to learn about the philosophies that batik incorporates.”
Mudin added that the workshop was a great place to form friendships with other batik lovers.
Although Indra said she was pleased with Unesco’s recent recognition of batik as Indonesia’s unique cultural heritage, she added that it was “only a start.”
She said the while government might be proud of Unesco’s declaration, but it was also important for the government to work to improve the quality of the country’s batik industry so it could compete in the international market. Indra said the state also needed to look after the welfare of the batik artisans and, most importantly, to copyright thousands of batik patterns to prevent them being copied overseas.
Indra said she had never asked the government for assistance because “the government doesn’t give enough support to batik and the batik industry,” but she welcomes any private companies or individuals who want to back her campaign.
As Mbatik Yuuuk is a nonprofit initiative, Indra said she used inexpensive methods such as Facebook and blogs to spread the word.
At the moment Indra works at a government institution and teaches part-time at several universities. She plans to work to promote Mbatik Yuuuk to schools all around Jakarta once she retires.
“My dream is to see young Indonesians wearing batik as proudly as they wear their ugly-looking jeans,” Indra said.
In part, the return to batik has been fueled by a sense of national pride, amid a culture war with neighboring Malaysia over the ownership of traditional dances, art and music.
It was a big moment for Indonesia when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization listed Indonesian batik as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage in October, and the textile received another boost when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who called on all Indonesians to wear batik every Friday.
“Batik will remain a strong element of the national fashion industry,” said Susi Bambang, manager of Danar Hadi boutique in Melawai, South Jakarta. “With Unesco’s recognition, batik is now a fashion icon for Indonesia. More and more people wear it with pride.”
Danar Hadi was founded 42 years ago by businessman Santosa Doellah. It is now one of the country’s leading batik fashion houses, with boutiques in Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Medan, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Solo.
Earlier this month, Danar Hadi showcased its year-end collections in a fashion show at its four-story Melawai boutique.
The event featured the latest collections from Danar Hadi in-house designers Ainunnisyah, Nurmina Girsang and Lydia Rachel S Lumbanraja, and acclaimed Indonesian fashion designer Tri Handoko.
“In response to the changing market, we are creating new styles for out batik lines,” Susi said. “We want to show our market that batik is suitable for all occasions.”
Ainunnisyah’s creations are feminine and elegant, combining brilliantly colored hand-woven fabrics and patches of batik in contemporary patterns. The shirts, which are embellished with sequins and ruffles, are paired with knee-length batik pareos. The result is a line of slim and modern silhouettes that complement the figure.
For formal occasions, Ainunnisyah presented a classic black-and-white batik collection of medium-length dresses. “Puff sleeves, ruffles and pleats make these dresses look chic and fashionable,” Ainunnisyah said.
She also showcased her line of elegant long-sleeved shirts for men.
Susi said Danar Hadi had invented its own technique to color batik fabric. “It’s a modern technique that saturates soft and comfortable eyelet cotton in vibrant colors,” Susi said.
In Ainunnisyah’s hands, the brightly colored material is transformed into stylish short dresses embellished with frills and intricate embroidery.
Lydia Rachel presented a fresher, more upbeat collection, combining short-sleeved batik shirts with skinny jeans and tights. “My collection is a combination of wavy cutting patterns, contrasting colors and gemstones,” Lydia said.
Lydia’s blouses are bold and edgy with traditional motifs in clashing audacious colors, such as bright pink, emerald green and gold.
“Batik doesn’t have to be formal and serious,” Lydia said. “You can wear my designs on casual occasions, like when you’re hanging out with friends or going to the mall.”
Young designer Tri Handoko presented five of his organza batik creations, dominated by earthy browns. Susi said Tri used a deconstructive method to create his line, meaning fabric is cut and sewn as it sits on a mannequin.
For Tri’s line, the results are graceful loose-fit shirts, crinkled at the waist to generate beautiful sweeping lines around the hips.
“Organza batik has a more luxuriant and elegant look, which is preferred by our customers, despite the higher prices,” Susi said. Prices for a Danar Hadi organza batik outfit start at Rp 1.5 million ($160).
In-house designer Nurmina Girsang showcased her “Big and Elegant” collection. Targeted at plus-sized women, her outfits generate flared A-line shapes, enhanced with colorful sequins, pleats and draperies. “Big women can also look beautiful and elegant,” she said. “I use a special modification of hand-woven material with a soft furry texture,” she said.
The furs, which are actually short threads extending from the fabric, create a luxurious feel. The collection features lereng (slope) and parang (big knife) batik motifs, Nurmina said. “I want more people to know and appreciate traditional motifs.”
In 2010, Danar Hadi will release four new collections by its in-house designers in Jakarta and Solo, as well as high-end designers. The collections to be released next year will include influences from Java, China and Japan.
Batik of Obama’s Mother Dresses Up Exhibition
An exhibition in Jakarta featuring the batik collection of the US President Barack Obama’s mother was officially opened in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Speaking at the occasion, Maya Soetoro, Obama’s half-sister, said their mother, Ann Dunham, collected batik as part of her efforts to understand Indonesian culture. Dunham passed away from ovarian cancer in 1995.
Maya said their mother had told them that culture was a good way to build international relationships.
The exhibition features Dunham’s collection of batik from Yogyakarta, Solo and Pekalongan in Central Java; Indramayu and Cirebon in West Java; and Madura, East Java.
The exhibition will also display the collections of first lady Ani Yudhoyono and Go Tik Swan, a renowned batik designer from Central Java.
A fashion show of batik dresses designed by Agus Susastro, an Indonesian designer living in New York, was the highlight of the opening.
Ani, who officially opened “The Batik Essay, a Collection of Love Stories” at Grand Indonesia mall, said batik — recently proclaimed by Unesco as Indonesian cultural heritage — was a medium for understanding the nation.
“Through this expo, one can picture a story of someone who loved batik very much,” Ani said, referring to Dunham.
Ani also recalled that when she was a child, her mother, Sunarti Sri Hadiyah, the wife of the late Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, introduced her to various batik designs and taught her how to choose certain designs for certain occasions.
Ani said she was proud of her mother and her role in preserving the tradition found in batik.
Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, said on Monday that the exhibition was to welcome Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia.
“This is a symbol of the US partnership with Indonesia as well as Mr. Obama’s appreciation of [our culture],” she said, as quoted by VIVAnews.
Achyar (40), one of the staffs admitted that he support wearing batik in order that it is recognized as a world heritage. “I support the effort which is being run in Arab. I have plenty of batik collection,” he admitted. Not only civil officers, but private company staffs are also wearing batik. Elli (24), one of administration staffs in a well-known book store, for example. “The staff must wear batik today as the form of support on batik to be recognized as a world heritage,” she said.
Seven young people from Bandung, West Java, grouped together as the Bluemoon Technology-Pixel People Project have introduced a potentially revolutionary innovation to the world of batik design in Indonesia with the launch of their Batik Fraktal V2 software, which enables batik to be designed without human intuition.
The software, development of which began in late 2007 with the support of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, the Research and Technology Ministry and a grant from Senada-USAID, enables designs to be made by a computer, which processes traditional batik design patterns into millions of new motifs by using fractal mathematics formulas.
The software launching ceremony was held at the Blitz Megaplex in Bandung recently and was attended by Research and Technology Minister Kusmayanto Kadiman, head of the West Java Industry and Trade Office Agustiar and representatives from Senada-USAID.
Nancy Margried, who served as project manager for the Pixel People Project, said the software allows traditional batik makers to design an unlimited number of motifs. She added the basic forms in the software, such as angles, length and repetitive motifs, were taken from traditional batik motifs, such as from Pekalongan, Garut, Yogyakarta and Surakarta.
"We have included a number of basic motifs, such as angles, length and motif duplication in the database so as to facilitate making batik motifs," Margried said.
Minister Kusmayanto said his ministry had provided support to the Batik Fraktal software given its extraordinary innovation, which combines art, computer, mathematics and economics.
"I am impressed because the innovation could expand batik sales extensively. Batik, which was regarded as traditional and out-moded, can now become a trend among the younger generation with its new and up-to-date designs," Kusmayanto said.
Nancy said batik fabrics could be made manually by using the traditional manner and the computer designs could easily be downloaded to the batik printing machines for mass production. Besides government agencies, Nancy said demand for the Batik Fraktal software was also sought after by customers from Australia, the United States and Singapore.
"We sell it in the form of software, design and finished products, but our capital is still limited so we have to bring in new investors."
They have decided to provide the software free to traditional and small-scale batik makers, but have set a high price for large-scale companies and overseas orders so as to protect local batik makers.
In Cirebon, traditional batik makers have aired their concern over the influx of Chinese-made batik products flooding the domestic market, including those producing the local Cirebon batik, better known as Trusmi.
They are afraid the Chinese-made batik could wipe out the local batik industry, which is managed traditionally.
The batik makers have urged the government to act immediately to anticipate the problem and take serious moves to protect the traditional batik industry, which is part of the national cultural wealth.
"The government should act quickly to prevent the invasion of Chinese-made batik," Katura, an elder member of the Trusmi Traditional Batik Artisans Association, said.
"We don`t have to worry about the competition from China and Malaysia because our batik designs are superior and difficult to emulate by other countries," Pangestu said. She said Indonesian batik was more oriented to painted and printed batik and thus its superiority was difficult to match by China and Malaysia.
Commenting on Malaysian batik, the minister said its motifs and colors were less competitive than the batik work from Indonesia.
"Malaysian batik is completely different from Indonesia`s because it has bright colors with one or two flowers on it but ours has a lot of flowers on it," she said.
Asked about the number of batik prducers who had been registered as patent right users, Mari said the Trade Ministry still did not know the exact number.
"I still don`t o know the exact number of batik producers who have been registered because it is an affair of the Intellectual Property Rights (HAKI) Directorate General at the Law and Human Rights Ministry," Pangestu Said.
But she said her office would trace the number of batik makers who had been registered as patent right users.
The minister also said the International Batik Week in Pekalongan was expected to increase the number of international buyers of Indonesian batik commodities.
"The important thing for the PBI which is held for the second time in Pekalongan is that it can attract as many foreign buyers as possible to come to Pekalongan," she said. (*)