Batik, A Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity 2017.10.06


A batik is a work of art. A creation of harmonious synchronization of hand, heart and mind, with a little mixture of art and abundance of patience. Without these important ingredients, Batik simply another cloth unlike today, recognize as one of the beautiful cultural heritage by UNESCO.


A batiker seated on a stool with “canting” on hand, guides the tip of the line, gently press to follow the previously printed pattern on the cloth. As the wax cool, she again dips her canting into the hot melted wax. This process involves days and months, and an elaborative Batik is made in a long time, often required a steady hand, consistent rhythm which is a hard skill to master.


Batik lady in Java has been preserving this piece of art for generation and is paramount in Indonesia as Batik today is not a mere commodity but has evolve in the global market as a trend in upscale boutique. The valuation has skyrocketed, especially those hand made with intricate, meticulous pattern. Modern factory creates Batik clothes in abundance but this cultural and artistic legacy; the traditional way, is a work of art that should be passed on for generations to come.


Batik comes for the word of tik (titik = dot), which refer to the dot of wax that illustrate the pattern. Batik traditionally is fully painted (which is called batik tulis – tulis means write /paint) by hand. This type of Batik, due to the amount of workhours and skills required is the most expensive of all.


The second type is by applying some sort of pattern (a previously made pattern chop) and use this to print over the clothes to create an elaborate pattern. This system is also quite common but by all means it’s an easy job. This would require a set of skills as the pattern needs to be pressed on evenly and regularly. This type of Batik since it can be mass produce are less expensive to compare to Batik Tulis.


The last type is combination of Batik Tulis and Batik Chop. The chop is use to create larger pattern and the detail is applied by hand. This Batik is regularly sits in the middle price range, between both Batik Tulis and Chop.

The Royal Garments

For a long period of time, Batik was worn by royal and the commoners alike. The intricate patterns indicate your state of wealth; an elaborative pattern means more work-hours needed and the higher the value. A 2.5 meters long Batik was quite common as the garments of royalty as everyday cover. Today however, due to the high price, the hand painted batik are embedded only on a smaller patch of clothes while the rest are combine with Silk or other clothing materials.


The royal family of Jogjakarta and Surakarta in Central Java has a certain pattern dyed and painted to associate with their respective palace. These pattern signifies and indicates the bearer status and even beliefs to have special ‘mystical’ power embedded into the clothes as the association with the palace through the Batik is considered sacred. The palace is the symbol of wealth, power and wisdom and by wearing the associated pattern, a statement of power, wisdom and authority is enthused. Sometimes, a statement of abstract with deep philosophical meaning are hidden within the complex pattern, and for those understand the complexity of the pattern, they are highly praised as these batik are belief to represent a status/position within the society.


Today, Indonesian wear batik for special events only such as wedding, or formal invitation as well as governmental events. The value of Batik has somehow diminished as just another garments. It is up to the younger generation to ensure and understand that Batik has a long history and tradition nowhere else to be found on Earth.

Batik day is celebrated in Indonesia on the 2nd of October 2017 with all civil (Government) worker wore their best Batik for the day.

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