October 31, 2016

Returning to Jeruk and Lasem

Writing again in a plane. This time from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. I had a wonderful, I think, truly Jakarta life-style week and happy to return to the more quiet life in Sleman (where I wrote most of this post).

On Monday 17 October I returned to Jeruk after exactly 7 years on the day (see blogpost "Jerukposted on 18 October 2009). 
I left early from Yogya with a driver to Semarang were we would pick up Jennifer. After a 6 hour drive, the landscape suddenly changed into the landscape I remember so well (see post "Landang garam"). 
I only been once one day to Jeruk and Lasem, so it is interesting I have such a strong connection with this place. But yet again, I felt as if I was returning home. My plan was to stay at Ibu Maryati, but it changed last minute, so I stayed at Ibu Ramini. To my surprise this was The Place I dreamed of visiting for so long. So it was meant to be.
The first thing Ibu Ramini asked Jennifer to ask me was: "Can't you stay one month?". Wauw, I really wanted that and wondered if I should change my plans...but I'm sure I will return and stay longer one day. 
Jennifer helped me explaining what my plans where and we were in luck that the next days the dyeing & the boiling out of the wax would be on the program.
Ibu Ramini remembered me well because she showed us a photo-album with the photos me & Tommas made during our short visit to Jeruk in 2009. I think I send them with my Batik design in 2011, but Ibu Ramini didn't remember that. Probably because it was at the time arranged with Ibu Maryati.
After our short catching up, we headed towards Ibu Maryati. She started her own Batik workshop at her home. I talked with Hanip and Dwi, the daughters of Ibu Maryati, to see how we would film the Tari Batik two days later. For me an inspiring household with three generations of Batik makers and with the youngest generation studying fashion and dance.

In the evening we were invited to eat a local dish at Ibu Ramini: Urap Latohan. A kind of salade with cocos and the seaweed that is used as a pattern in almost every batik from that area. You can't eat this dish the whole year round, so again we were lucky.

After a early bedtime and a early wake up, I started filming the colouring of the batiks. Brown, cocolat and red were on the planning. The colouring of the red looks like a magic trick. In the first dyeing bath only a blueish tinge appears on the cloth. In the second bath the cloth suddenly turns red. I hope I captured this well...

Jennifer brought with her the skirt and dress made from the Batiks I selected in Jakarta. Good idea of her to do a little photoshoot at the place they were made (well one here and one by Ibu Maryati). Me feeling goofy and nervous ended up being a bad model, but I made the batik makers laugh.

When near Lasem, you must visit Mr. Sigit, so we headed there next. The doors was closed, but his grandson welcomed us in. At the entrance only 4 or 5 batik makers were working, I remembered Pak William Kwan telling me about this, but I was happy to see there were 10 more women working around the corner. Nothing really changed at Mr. Sigit workshop, maybe less workers, but no big changes at first sight.
His grandson showed us some wonderful pieces and also new designs with Arabic texts on it. Maybe it is the influence of this new generation, happy to see and meet this new generation. I picked out one Batik for my own collection with a base in red with a pattern of peacocks and fish. Finally a finished piece from this workshop in my small collection!
Mr. Sigit wanted to meet us when we were just done shopping. He was standing in the door opening and said in Dutch something like "You come back from the Netherlands". I don't know if he actually remembered me, but he was really happy we were there. Mr. Sigit is now 88 years old and we were surprised to hear that the Batik workshop started with cap in 1923. It wasn't until 1967 (or 1976, I'm not sure) that they started with Batik Tulis. Nowadays if we talk about Batik Lasem we talk about the batiks from Sigit Witjaksono. It was nice to visit him again and to see a new generation ready to continue his legacy.

To stay in Batik Lasem theme, we visited two very old (more then 300 years old) and beautiful Chinese temples. There are theories the Batik motifs used in Lasem are based on artefacts & ornaments found here and I think I can agree with that.

October 23, 2016

Jogja International Batik Biennale

Opening JIBB with Tari Batik

Promised myself not to take flights while being on Java, but I'm writing this first paragraph on a plane from Semarang to Jakarta. I will be more sustainable when I'm back home again... For now this is just the fastest and easiest way to get there.
I just had a dream come true experience in Jeruk. The place where it all started, where my true journey to Batik started. The last 7 years I wished so many times to go there, it was very special to actually be there. I feel kind of sad leaving so fast towards the next adventure, but I know I must and will return there again one day!
The Jeruk-story has to wait, because I first have to write about the Jogja International Batik Biennale (JIBB).
I never heard of this event before so I was happy I could join and that it was precisely in between other travel-plans.
I decided to go two days to the JIBb. One day Symposium, one day exploring Batik culture around Imogiri. I never been there and seeing all the lovely pictures of people wearing 'dodot' (see 'Batik Statement IV') visiting the Sultans graveyard, it was on my wishlist for a long time already. 

The Symposium was held on Thursday 13 October at the Royal Ambarrukmo hotel in Yogyakarta.In the conference room it was buzzing with ladies in sarongs with nice jewellery and man in interesting ensembles, some traditional, some more fashionable. The JIBB started the day before, but the program title for Thursday sounded more interesting: "Tradition for Innovation". None of my Batik contacts from Java were there, but I was placed at the table with the international speakers. That meant also that I was sitting at one point alone at the big round table front-row. 

The JIBB is held to share thoughts and progress on how to turn Yogyakarta in the "World Batik City". Just returning from the other "World Batik City" I found it strange two big cities on Java are competing for the same title. At the same time, maybe it is good and interesting that two big cities organize events to support Batik.

The Symposium started with a very fitting performance of 'Tari Batik'. A new traditional dance in which the dancers show all stages of creating a Batik.
After a speech by the organisation, a speech was held by the Head of Honorary Committee of JIBB 2016 by Queen Hemas.
The speech was held in Bahasa Indonesia, next on the screen was a translation in English. The speech was about "bringing Jogja Batik to the world" and I was a little baffled that this could be both "personal fine Art Batik" and "mass-produced Batik". I hope she meant Batik Cap and not printed textiles...
After the speech the first talk was held by Mr. Mandu who is doing an interesting research on finding prove in old Javanese manuscripts about the history of Batik. Looking forward to hear more about his finds!

After a short break with a brilliant musical intermezzo by a very talent group of singers from Yogya, the first session started with the title 'Global innovation of Batik'. The table guest were princess Paku Alam X, who started producing really refined new Batik Tulis designs based on old manuscripts from the Kraton. Mr. Eric Ong from Malaysia who talked about being sustainable in fashion by using traditional textiles or techniques like Batik and Sashiko. Tatjana Agababaeva from Azerbajian who makes Batik herself and Annegret Haake from Germany who makes interesting exhibitions about Batik in a castle (location added to my must-visit-wish-list)

Batik design 'Sestra Lukita' by the princess

Batik design 'Surya Mulyarja' by the princess

Retno Murti, Moderator for Session 2

After lunch and a lot of selfies, we continued with the last and second session titled 'Current Issues on Batik Innovations'. Moderator Retno Murti, lifestyle journalist, gave a wonderful introduction showing Batik being used in different ways. Mostly as motifs on object likes cars and cakes, but also Batik Fractal software was in her presentation.
This panel was not so strong as the first one and no real discussion started. It was more everyone sharing their own thoughts, or better point of views, without being critical about this important subject. I heard a lot of similar things that are being repeated since 2009. For example: printed batik is bad for Batik Tulis industry, we need to preserve the tradition, we need to use Batik in fashion. And unfortunately no real solutions are brought to the table. Why not start with paying pembatiks better, using education not only to create buyers of more Batik businessman, but to find a new generation of Batik makers!
But lets not be too critical, I'm happy events like this are being organized. I'm happy talking about Batik with interesting people from around the world! And I'm looking forward to the 2018 edition.

Writing the second halve of this post stuck in traffic in Jakarta...
On Saturday 15 October the Batik culture around Imogiri was on the JIBB program. We were asked in the morning who wanted to walk the steps to the final resting-place of the Sultan. Well of course I wanted to. Turned out I was not the only one, but of 6 mini busses, only one didn't ride directly to the top...

The location of the Royal Cemetery is breath taking, and not only because you have to walk 400 steps up. Barbara told me about walking in a zigzag, I told the group but no one believed me until a man carrying a cement bag on his head zigzagged his way up.
The view on the steps is beautiful and arriving at the last entrance I felt a little relieved I didn't have to do all the steps wearing a sarong.
To enter the final resting-place you have to leave your "belongings" behind. You get changed in traditional wear: for women a batik as a sarong and a batik as a top, hair loose, no jewellery. After the change, it feels really special walking the last steps. 

We went down the lion mountain (or is it mountain of snow) arriving at a beautiful old Javanese building. I couldn't follow precisely what happened there, but I understood this was first a Batik Museum but was now still to badly damaged from the earthquake. The entrance was rebuild, but the rest was still in ruins. 
Going to the "new" Batik Museum location I spotted more damage on the way. This means people are already not able to rebuild for 10 years in this area...

At the Museum Lingkungan Batik in Imogiri-Bantul

After lunch we went to a, in my eyes, Batik theme park. This 'Kampung Batik Giriloyo' is a terrain with little traditional huts in which different Batik makers & sellers present their collection. You can make a small batik yourself with a ready put on design. The batiks are dyed with Natural Dye, so that is pretty cool! They used Mahoni and Jalawe, so it was wonderful seeing the colours of the materials I used for my temporary carpet in Pekalongan.

At Kampung Batik Giriloyo 

Natural dye workshop

The day ended with a farewell dinner with pop music and traditional dance. I think the program on Saturday was a good balance between seeing Batik in Javanese culture and supporting a region that can still use a lot of support. 
I'm happy to have this sight seeing day with a Batik theme and just going along for the ride. Was like a tiny holiday within my amazing journey!

October 16, 2016

Batik Week

Making of my temporary carpet at Museum Batik

While I write this, rain is pouring down creating a river in front of the house were normally there is a road. On Sunday 10 October I returned to my temporary home in Sleman after an exiting and wonderful week in Pekalongan.
After my "preparation visit" about 2 weeks ago I returned to Pekalongan on 4 October. The Batik Week was starting that day and I was hoping to create an artwork at Museum Batik. 

Making the same journey twice is nice and easy. Only thing that was different that there was smoke coming out of the Merapi volcano... at my transfer point in Semarang the people of volcano ask me "why you here again?".


When I arrived in Pekalongan I found out that due to the busy time setting up the Batik Week, no preparations were made for my artwork. Only here you can make in less then 24 hours everything happen. Very fast an employee of the museum offered to get the Natural dyes I was looking for and in the morning I would go with Fajardewa and his wife to the pasar to get beras (rice) and other organic materials.

Fashion show at Museum Batik

That evening was a Gala dinner & Fashion show at the museum. I was happy I could go and wear my beautiful Kamaratih Batik coat that arrived a day earlier in Yogya!
The Fashion show was a colorful parade of fashion made by local and Javanese designers. Sitting on the side it was hard to tell if Batik Tulis or printed textiles was being used, but there were some nice silhouettes being displayed. Clothing by one designer, I specifically liked,  worked in asymmetrical layers with Batik Cap (I think) creating very feminine yet modern looking outfits. Another one, also from Pekalongan, used popular rock symbols in her designs like the mouth of the Rolling Stones. A nice surprise and very bold. Would like to meet this designer one day!

The next day arriving at Fajardewa's house I heard that the Natural dye materials already arrived in the museum. We headed to the pasar to see what materials I could use. 
With bags filled with rice, maize and a kind of lentils we continued to get materials for my stage. At a shop we bought a full size triplex plate. I wondered how it would reach the museum, but was told that a becak would bring it. Indeed a becak driver came, taking my bags with materials and placed the triplex plate on top of the seats and headed to the museum. Wow!

Finding materials at the pasar for my carpet

Jalawe, Secang, Tingi, Lerak, Tegeran, Mahoni and Jumbal I used in my carpet

At the museum I started setting up right away. I ask next to the Natural dye for the wajan's they use to heat the wax. I used them to display the materials I was using to make my carpet.
Yes, a carpet, I was going to make a carpet, or better sarong, using materials that are being used to color Batiks. The motif, the design of this temporary carpet, I based on the well known Batik Buketan design Pekalongan is famous for. 
Working with new materials is always exiting and I was happy to find that drawing with the Jalawe, Lerak, Tingi, Tegeran and Jumbal worked better then expected. It was wonderful to work on such an inspiring location surrounded by people who recognize and appreciate the materials I use.
The rice I used for the background because it is good contrast color is seen as an actual Batik motif. This motif know as "sprinkled rice" is a classic and Ibu Maryati from Jeruk makes her own modern version of it.

I worked through the openings-hours of the museum and was told not to finish the carpet that day because important guest would come the next day and would like to see me at work. I laughed because I knew I could never finish in one day. But glad I could prepare my carpet in a way I could still work with a crowd around me the next morning.

Bamboo stand by Museum Batik

Batik by Ibu Maryati in one of the stands

Around the Museum Batik for the Batik Week was a festival terrain with stands filled with Batik and food. The Museum Batik made a bamboo house to display a small Batik exhibition. 
In some of the stands were wonderful examples of Batiks dyed with natural colors and also a stand representing Batik Lasem. I spotted a Batik with a similar 'big grain of rice' motif Ibu Maryati uses in her designs and it turned out it was by her!

In the evening a Wayang Kulit performance was held for the military. The loudspeakers were a bit to loud for me, but it was a wonderful display. Two Wayang masters told the story. At one point the figures were in a kind of battle. One Wayang master threw one after another doll over the stage after spinning it around in front of the screen. His display got a big applause.

The next day I continued with my carpet with more viewers. Some ask me something, but most just watched me work and just say "Baik" or "Bagus". 
My carpet was not only noticed by visitors, also by the media. The local Radio sender Radio Kota Batik came to interview me and later returned with a cameraman. The item he made was shown on national tv! And on Twitter I found many people shared an interview. In this interview some things were written a bit stronger then my actual words like: "I hate Batik print!" And some things are just not true: "I'm 26 en lived 7 years on Java to study Batik with permission of my parents". I wish! 
But still great to get so much appreciation and have such a wonderful time making it!

Mak Sium, me and her granddaughter

Ibu Rasminah and Qomar

Nurul and her mother

On Friday and Saturday morning I returned to Batang to film some of the Batikmakers I met during my first visit. A great experience and I hope to share more about that in the near future.
In the afternoon the Batik Carnival took place in Pekalongan. Yes! But it was very busy and when the parade finally arrived it started to rain, but still it was a wonderful display. With Batiks and natural materials costumes were made. A lot of birds and butterflies marched by, but some were more creative and made me & Qomar very happy. We were judging every design very seriously and laughed that we should give out our own award as independent jury.

Batik Carnival in Pekalongan

I had a wonderful time in Pekalongan & Batang and would like to give a special thanks to Cornellius Pasattimur Fajardewa, Mr. Mandala, Mak Sium & her family, Nurul & her family, Qomar, Pak William Kwan, Ibu Rasminah & her family & everyone at the Museum Batik!