Batik, More than just a cloth

When I opened twitter application yesterday morning, I just found out that yesterday was Batik Day in our beloved country, Indonesia and that was confirmed by a twit from our president SBY. It was said that precisely four years ago, on that day (October 2nd) batik was designated by UNESCO as World Intangible Cultural Heritage. So, to celebrate the day, we were suggested to use batik especially those who work on government administration, company, student, and the other who feels like to use it. In that way we could feel the heave, feel the festive all over Indonesia. Besides that, so many public figure and public account on twitter asking their followers to update their picture while using batik. So, batik was all around Indonesia today. As for me, who work out of the festive zone, I use this event to post something about it (my work demands me to use our field uniform, so it not possible to use batik) and be caution because after talking these and those about batik, there are going to be some show off, kekekeke)

Below nice introduction about Batik which is absolutely copied from Batik Winotosastro (go visit their website for deeper knowledge about batik especially from Jogjakarta).

The words batik comes from the term “titik”, a dot, point or drop, referring to the wax dots that make up the pattern. The word itself has three distinct meanings.

Kind of Batik
Kind of Batik

First, batik refers to the actual process pf applying ,elted wax to clotch (or other surface) by hand, then dyeing the cloh. The wax acts as resist to the dye colours.

  • Batik tulis, meaning writing, is waxed completely by hand using the canting tool. This is the most expensive batik due to the long process and high level of skill needed. You’ll see slight differences in the thickness of the wax line, and the details show variation in size or shape.
  • Batik cap (chop) is waxed with the copper stamp called a cap. This also takes skill to create an even pattern on the cloth, but it’s much faster to make than batik tulis. You’ll notice a set thickness to the lines because they’re all the same from the width of the copper strips. Also, if you open the cloth and let your eye blur slightly, you can sometimes notice the shape of the stamp is separated a bit from the one next to it. Batik cap is the least expensive of hand-processed batiks.
  • Batik kombinasi combines both techniques on one cloth. First the main design is waxed with a cap, and then the batiker adds details with the canting. Batik kombinasi is priced in the mid-range.

Secondly, the word applies to the finished product itself – a batik cloth.

Third, the word has come to mean the patterns themselves. So some would say a cloth that has been screen printed to look like batik, but was not made with wax or dyes, is batik also. (i buy this kind a lot)

Unfortunately, these screen-printed cloths have become so widespread, that most people cannot tell the difference between hand made, wax processed batiks and screen-printing. With new technology, the quality of these screen-printed fabrics can be extremely difficult to distinguish between them and original batiks. One indication is their low price since no hand work is involved.

One thing for non-Indonesians to realize is that for hundreds of years, the batik kain panjang, 2.5 meter-long cloth, was wrapped around the body and worn every day by commoners and royalty alike. This was the garment industry in a sense. Up until the late 1970s, early ’80s, many women wore only batik kain panjang. By the 1960s batik fabric was made up into blouses, skirts, men’s shirts and other garments.  Gradually more modern dress replaced batik for everyday use. Now men and women often wear traditional batik for special occasions only. On the streets, however, the batik patterns are quite visible, many on silkscreened modern clothing styles.

Indonesians sometimes devalue batik as “just a garment.” It’s not something special, it’s just what you wear everyday. Our task as carriers of this heritage is to make people aware of this long history and the unique quality of Indonesian batik, found no where else in the world.

Batik in the Royal Court Cities of Central Java

Unlike the more open, free-spirited north coast of Java influenced by traders from Europe, India, Arabia and China, the royal court cities of Central Java looked inward, building on a different set of rules and values.

In 1755, the nearly 200-year-old Mataram Sultanate of Central Java split into the two court cities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, or Solo as it’s also known. These ancient aristocratic, feudal societies placed much emphasis on tradition, a sense of order within a strict code of conduct, an awareness of spiritual values and the use of symbolism. Power was concentrated at the top under the sultan as supreme ruler.

These deeply held values are clearly reflected in the batik of this region. From the Hindu-Buddhist era in Java come stylized forms from nature, using rounded, flowing lines rather than realistic depictions of flowers or leaves. Believers of Islam, which came to Java in the 1500s, are not allowed to portray any living creature. This in turn pushed batik into more geometric designs.

Batik – a Symbol of Mystical Power

Early rulers in Yogyakarta and Surakarta decreed that batik must be worn at court. In addition to the already common white with indigo blue dyed background, they added a soga brown colour to the palette. This established the three traditional colours of white, indigo and brown, still in use today.

Not only did the rulers decree specific colours for batik, they also kept certain patterns solely for use by members of the royal family. In traditional societies all over the world, cloth is a carrier of deep significance, often indicating the status of the wearer. By connecting specific batik patterns directly to the sultan, the batik became a symbol of mystical power.

Hidden inside these complex patterns are worlds of philosophical meaning. Abstraction, understatement and stylized forms are highly prized. When batik is created with exceptional skill, another layer of distinction and value is embedded in the final cloth.

There are so many patterns of batik which are differents in each area and interesting fact or meaning lies in each batik pattern. Honestly i never knew about it before so thank you to the goverment because this kind of celebration makes me exploring about it. I used to buy batik simply by its atrracting pattern or the colour, but from now on, i’ll choose it wisely :D.

So, here some of batik (unfortunately most of them were the third kind, pattern of batik) and how i turned them into dresses 😀 (preapare some bag, in case you’d threw up by this picture -_-“!)

Parang Motif (Yogyakarta)

Batik Parang
Batik Parang
Arghh, Jessica Alba looks so stunning here!! (took this picture from www.republika.co.id)
Arghh, Jessica Alba looks so stunning here!! (took this picture from http://www.republika.co.id)

Didn’t have any idea, I chose this pattern simply because i wanted a black coloured batik for my brother wedding in 2010. I just found out this pattern is called “Parang Motif”, referred as the “keris” or sword pattern. Javanese the “Parang motif” as “lidah api”, tongue of fire. This motif is one of most powerful batik motifs with its strong parallel diagonal lines. There are hundreds of variations from small 2 cm in “Parang Klithik” to the largest at 8cm or more in “Parang Barong” (www.winotosastro.com). In further searching i found the other meaning of this motif. It also means war. Formerly, this motif is used for warfare. “Parang Barong” (he biggest one) is only used by the King. Until now this motif may not be used by ordinary people if go into the palace. Myths about this pattern is should not be used to get married (and sorry to my brother, i used it wrong, but since we are Torajan, it doesn’t really matter :D) because the household will always fight like the meaning of the word Parang (www.batikseno.weebly.com).

For additional information, this pattern is widely recognised, when Jessica Alba used it in 2012.

West Java varied plant printed batik

Nowadays we love to use matching bating for whole family member,  the difference is found only in how we want to wear it. we use matching batik family almost in every occasion. from my grandfather funeral ceremony, my graduation day, to family wedding. All batik in these pictures were bought in West Java. It is dominated by plant pattern especially flower. In general, flower pattern means beauty and love, so this kind of pattern is nice to wear in wedding.

West Java printed batik
West Java printed batik

While for plant, i think it means the life, as plant support the life itself (just my thought).

West Java printed batik
West Java printed batik

Sidoasih (Yogyakarta)

I got this motif as gift from my friend who lives in Yogyakarta (my newest batik). The one that i got is Semen Sidoaasih.  Semen, based on word semi,meaning o sprout or grow, or non-geometrik patterns inspird by natural world. Filled with stylzed stems, fower, leaves, mountains, and animals. This group of design was highly important for royalty on special occasions, as well as common people in everyday use (www.winotosastro.com).  Semen Sidoasih means love.

Semen Sidoasih
Semen Sidoasih

Garuda, the mystical Hindu bird-man in Hindu mythology, who carried vishnu throughthe heavens is often potrayed in Semen design with a single, or pair of wings (Lar) or the wings and tail (Sawat).

Batang Garing (Borneo)

Here we are, to my most favorite batik pattern, Batang Garing (the tree of life) , which is specialty of Borneo, especially in any Dayak tribe craft. i bring this batik almost in all my travel time.  Besides the pattern, what i love from east borneo batik is its bright colour.

Batik of Borneo
Batik of Borneo

In general, the people of Dayak Ngaju see “Batang Garing” as a symbol of three stratums of cosmos namely, the upper world, “pantai danum alunen (earth), and the underworld (water). The upper world is the place of “Ranying Hatalla Langit” (The One and Only God), the earth is where human kind live, as for the underground is residence of “Jata” or “Lilih” or “Raden Temanggung Sali Padadusan Dalam” or “Tiung Layang Raja Memegang Jalan Harusan Bulau, Ije Punan Raja Jagan Pukung Sahewan” (Riwut, 2003;508), copied this from http://www.melayuonline.com.

Saroong

This is the last saroong batik from my mom before she passed away. she loved to buy saroong batik (we used to have so many saroong batik, but we lost all of them when my mom was gone) i used to bring this saroong wherever i go and used it as blanket. But in the end, i had it tailored into a mini skirt.

The pattern in this saroong is dominated by hibiscus.

(Prepare your heart beat before seeing the picture below. i was in my worse, kekekekekeke)

Batik Saroong
Batik Saroong

And the last, this is a bonus because actually it has different process with batik, but since it is special cloth from South Borneo, i just want to post it too.

Sasirangan Bag

Similar with each meaning that is represented by each pattern in batik, each color in “Kain Sasirangan” has its own meaning. Formerly, it was used to complete traditional medical therapy. in my bag, there are two colors; oink and green. IF i were live in old days, the pink would be describe as i were curing my insomnia, while the green color said i need some rest because it was believed to decrease our fatigue.

Sasirangan Bag
Sasirangan Bag

Those are my batiks, so which pattern are you?

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7 thoughts on “Batik, More than just a cloth

  1. Wow…This is a very informative post, my friend! It is good to know that there is a day fixed specially for this traditional and national craft.

    Indeed, it is more than just a cloth for there are so many stories, histories and cultures behind this are as spectacular as those prints on the cloth…

    Btw, great photos too!! Hehe…Thank you for sharing!

    Have a lovely Friday and a fruitful weekend coming ahead, always~ Cheers!! 😀

    1. Thank you Wendy 😀 ;D
      Indeed, it’s so nice to have one. we should do it more, especially for one which needs to preserve 🙂

      yes, unfortunately it’s very late for me to know about it. i’ll do some search for the other crafts that interesting for me 😀 and post more here.

      Have a blessed day lovely Wendy 🙂

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