To 'celebrate' that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will officially announce tomorrow that Indonesian handmade batik is a world heritage, SBY's government has instructed government officials, and advised the rest of us, to wear batik shirts tomorrow.
I've got an expensive handmade batik shirt, but the batik motifs are machine-printed and the material has not been near a canting, a small brass bowl with spout with which wax is put onto cloth in order to trace a pattern. Nor has it been printed with a cap, a wooden block with a brass pattern which is used for 'embossing' The motif of my shirt is, I suspect, more of a pastiche than an example of Indonesia's traditional or cultural heritage.
Batik, a lengthy process of using wax to resist dyes, probably first arrived in Indonesia from China three hundred or so years ago. The traditional skills were particularly well developed in Central Java around Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) under the patronage of the Sultan and his court. Designs were copies and in some cases the cloths could only be used by certain people or on certain occasions. The royal families had their own proscribed designs. On the coast designs were developed differently, influenced by settlers from China, the Dutch colonists and traders from India and Arabia.
Batik continues to evolve, with fashion designers and artists such as Nia Fliam and her partner Ismoyo encouraging the spread of batik worlwide.
I like batik and feel that it is a good representation of Indonesian culture. But then, if I lived in Malaysia, I would recognise that their batik motifs, with geometric designs such as spirals, are peculiar to their culture.
As few can afford the 'real' heritage, I don't suppose that it will matter how the material of tomorrow's shirt is printed. At least we'll be spared the impotent xenophobia recently witnessed when a Balinese dance was used to advertise Malaysia.
Or will we be treated to cries of 'yah, boo sucks' from yobbos who think Indonesia has finally 'won' something? ......................................................... Apart from the links above, I've found two sites devoted to the History of Batik - here and here. It should be noted that dye-resist techniques are found worldwide. ......................................................... PS. I prepublished this post last night. I expected to reschedule it following the earthquake but it is now 3.30 the followiing day and our electricity has only just been restored.