August 24, 2017

New Perspectives on Traditional Wear

'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan at KAF in Almere, 2017

In my quest to unravel the history of Batik, I also started unravelling another history, the Dutch history, the colonial one and my own. I started asking myself what is being Dutch and what are we actually talking about if we are referring to "typical Dutch".
The more typical Dutch traditions I explored, the more I learned we are a culture that's is mixed with, influenced, inspired and changed by other cultures. And instead of celebrating this, learning from this shared history and heritage, we dig our heels in the sand (I found a Dutch expression that is actually a correct English expression, the miracles haven't left the planet yet!). Happily I also discovered that more and more, especially young people, are exploring Dutch culture and are putting it into a new, fun, interesting and educational perspective.

DRACHT by Kasper Jongejan

Let me start with the 'Dracht' ('Wear') collection by Kasper Jongejan. I got a tip about this exhibition at KAF in Almere and was happy I was just in time the visit it the last week. Such a pity I didn't know it earlier, because 'House of Arts' was great and had many nice artworks. And what a location! I would love to make a work there!
Jongejan's collection is a new invented traditional wear for Almere. Almere is the newest city in the Netherlands on the reclaimed land of the province Flevoland. The first residents arrived in the seventies, a time in which almost no one wore traditional wear in the Netherlands except maybe some newcomers.  Jongejan based his 'DRACHT' on the Dutch traditional wear from Marken and Huizen, two villages near Almere with a striking traditional wear, and on the three biggest ethnic groups of Almere, people from Suriname, Antilles and Morocco. I loved that these traditional wears were on display too. It was for me a wonderful reference to the whole 'being Dutch' discussion, because all these wears can be found nowadays in the Netherlands. And frankly, the ones from Marken and Huizen will be hard to find in everyday life.

Display of five traditional wears found in the Almere region, in front from the Antilles

Traditional wear from Huizen from 1940, part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

Traditional wear from Suriname, part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

Traditional wear from Marken from 1950 part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

The five traditional wears were interpreted into a new collection of five outfits and a brilliant headpiece. And I will say it again, I will wear it in a heartbeat (do need it a size up or two), so if you read this Kasper, when and where can we order the collection?

My favorite, dress for a grown woman, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan

Dress for grown man, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan

A baseball cap combined with lace, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan

ETNOMANIE by Ellie Uyttenbroek

Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

Next, ETNOMANIE at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. This weekend is already the last weekend, so go check it out!!
ETNOMANIE plays with the idea of and how to deal with the big collection of ethno-historical photographs in Dutch museum collections. Most of these stereotypical images are gathered and made in the 19th and the beginning of 20th century in Asia, the Middle East, Noth Africa, North America, but also nearer to home. The Nederlands Fotomuseum invited Ellie Uyttenbroek, a so called style profiler, to make a show out of these pictures.

"I look at the people in these pictures the same way as I look at people in the street today. And I use what I see to produce small style profiles"

She selected 380 portraits on their style. The exhibition consist of huge, curtain-like, prints of coloured-in black and white photos with short style phrases like "DUKDUK, Onesie streetwear"& "Indigogo girls, the holy source of long-lasting levi's autentic rugged jeans" on the ground. In a small room are the actual black and white, almost miniature, photographs. Only a small part got the special coloured in treatment, but I do like the selection on style. Such a simple, yet great idea. I regret not buying the book, if you go this weekend, buy me a copy!

Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

"Indigogo girls-the holy source of long-lasting levi's autentic rugged jeans" 
style phrase by Ellie Uyttenbroek

Community Dressing by Theodorus Johannes

Community Dressing is a documentary series of which the first episode got put online in April. This episode is about the regional costume of Noord Brabant, my roots and the roots of the maker, the flamboyant Theodurus Johannes. With nice information about the 'Poffer', a North Brabantian hat/headdress. I like Thijs his presenting style so much and can't wait for a new episode!

For more on traditional wear, Dutch culture and my quest in re-identifying Dutch culture read my previous posts New Dutch traditionsLet's talk about Chintz and De reis naar Batik (in Dutch)

August 11, 2017

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Buketan

Summertime is Batik time! I spotted this field of flowers and knew this was a good spot for my 4th  Pattern Edition Batik Statement. With this series of 'statements' I try to explain the meaning of a pattern or motif. During my journey on Java last year, I noticed that every dot or line on a Batik has a name. Sometimes the Batik as a whole represents something, but also every individual detail has its own name and meaning. To learn a little more about Batiks and their story I thought it would be nice to capture their meaning in 'Batik Statements'.

Let me introduce: Buketan
Buketan comes from the Dutch word boeket or bouquet in English. Buketan is used as a big motif on Batik in both the kepala, the head, and the badan, the body. It literrally looks like a bouquet of wild flowers, loosely arranged without a vase or bow. Usually its surrounded by flying birds, butterflies and insects. 

When you think of Batik Buketan, you think of Pekalongan. The city were the motif was invented and is still being made today. 
The motif is first made by, or at least got famous by, Eliza van Zuylen. Eliza van Zuylen (1863-1947) ran a Batikworkshop in Pekalongan producing high-quality designs for a Indo-European, European and Peranakan clientele. Next to designing her own, she copied designs of other batik entrepreneurs. Her Indo-European styled Batik combined traditional Javanese motifs with Art Nouveau patterns. In the book 'Fabric of Enchantment' is written that her design of an asymmetrical tree with wading birds, evolved into a wisteria tree, blauweregen in Dutch, sheltering peacocks. This then became a bouquet of assorted flowers around 1910.

A story of how Van Zuylen designed her buketans goes that she used cut-outs of flowers and arranged them. So the same way as how you would arrange an actual bouquet. Her paper arrangement was then transferred onto paper and turned into a Batik. Fun fact, her sister, Christina van Zuylen, who ran a Batikworkshop also, first sold floral arrangements and bouquets.
Eliza van Zuylen was the last Indo-European to have her workshop open during the Japanese occupation (1941-1945). After the capitulation she got interned by the Indonesians. She passed away in 1947. Her Batik workshop got plundered, yet, Oei Khing Liem, a Peranakan entrepreneur, whose backyard bordered Van Zuylen's batikworkshop, still offered a large sum of money for the rights of her signature. The offer was declined. He already was making copies of her Batik Buketan designs, without the signature.

Chinese Batikmakers started using the design all over the North coast area of Java. And it is within these workshops the Buketan legacy still remains. 
Nowadays the best Batik Buketan can still be bought in the Pekalongan area. Widianti Widjaja, granddaughter of Oey Soe Tjoen, still makes her grandfathers famous 3D designs. I heard the waiting list for a Batik from this workshop is 7 years, or was it 3 years, anyway it is worth the wait. 
Oey Soe Tjoen started around 1925 with his wife Kwee Nettie Kendoengwoeni. They both designed Batiks, but they got most famous for their copies of Eliza van Zuylen's Buketan. He created a unique three-dimensional effect in which rows of dots create this shadow effect in the flower petals. Apparently Van Zuylen tried to copy this effect and couldn't...
In 1975 the workshop was taken over by his son and is now run by his granddaughter. This fierce lady is in the documentary 'Batik, Our Love Story', showing how the high-quality Batiks stay high-quality. The Batiks are made in 7 colour baths, which means that the wax is applied 7 times. If in any of these steps a mistake is made, they start with a new Batik. In the docu you see Widianti Widjaja preparing the cloths, drawing the designs on and checking the cloths between steps. A hardworking lady with a beautiful product! Hope to visit her workshop during a next visit to Java!

On my Batik Statement I'm wearing a body warmer, made for my mother from a, yes fake, batik my grandmother bought and a skirt, my grandmother had made on Java. The fake printed textile is based on the famous designs by Oey Soe Tjoen. My mother wore this for years when she was working in garden and I got it from her when I was preparing for my first journey to Java. Normally I would always go for a real Batik-Batik Statement, but with all the copying going on of the Buketan motif a fake copy fits the story, doesn't it?

Photos made by Koen de Wit, Thank you! 

Read more:

Last October I made a Batik Buketan carpet at Museum Pekalongan during the Batik Week 

My first post about Batik Buketan 

More about Eliza van Zuylen in my previous posts Give honor to whom it’s due 
and Difficult Time 

August 4, 2017

Javanese Batik to the world by Maria Wronska-Friend

Maria Wronska-Friend at Galerie Smend

Batik from Rudolf Smend collection featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 20
on display in Galerie Smend, June 2017

I intended to write a post on my experience at the brilliant Mini-Symposium, which wasn't mini at all, organised at Galerie Smend in June. I ended up writing only about Maria Wronska Friend's book, which was launched during the evening before the symposium, and about her talk, which was during the symposium. So in a way it is about the symposium after all and I maybe post more about the symposium later.
Let me start with thanking Rudolf Smend for the invitation. What a wonderful opportunity to meet so many Batik fans and share an evening & day full of Batik in Cologne, Germany!

After a very easy train ride to Cologne (love living in Utrecht), I arrived at Galerie Smend just in time for the opening of the Batik Art by Catalina Espina and the launch of Maria Wronska-Friend's book Javanese Batik to the world.  Batiks from Rudolfs collection mentioned in Maria's new book were on display through out the gallery.
First one that caught my eye was this dark blue indigo canvas with just a simple batik crackled white line on it. I knew this work from somewhere...Took me till the next afternoon to find out I had been chatting with the maker of this piece and of the lovely book 'Indigo' (2013) I have at home, the artist Peter Wenger.
His delicate work is best described as poetry written with Batik. He started using the batik technique in 1952. Originally from Germany, his years living in Ireland and the inspiration from it can be traced back in his work; the sea, the myths, the poetry. Peter is now based in France and has been making works till recently, and will hopefully continue again soon. The publications made by Galerie Smend from 2005, 2007 and 2013 are more then just catalogs, they are artworks and a great way of getting to know this artist better. Thanks again Peter for the kind gifts! And great that Maria included this artist in her new book!

Photo from page from the book published in 2005 by Galerie Smend of Peter Wanger's work

Maria's book Javanese Batik to the world is in English and Bahasa Indonesia, Batik jawa bagi dunia. Publishing it in two languages must have been an enormous effort for the auteur and it is great she made it. Most Batik books are only available in English or even Dutch...and even some only in Bahasa.
Maria's knowledge is vast and wide. Her interests are so similar to mine and it so wonderful to see how much more there is to discover.
Her book Javanese Batik to the world is actually not about Javanese Batik. It is about how Javanese Batik inspired people across the world to work with Batik. The book includes a chapter on how 'De Nieuw Kunst' movement, the Dutch Art Nouveau**, started making Batiks for interior design, a chapter on the history of Wax Prints, on English Batikmakers from the 70's and on batikked Sari's from India. A must read and I need to make more time to do so myself.

Rudolf Smend asked Reynold Pasaribu during the booklaunch to read the title in Bahasa

Detail of a Batik Belanda from Rudolf Smend collection 
featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 24 

Detail of Classic Tiga Negeri Batik from Rudolf Smend collection 
featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 15

During Maria's talk at the mini symposium, 16 June 2017, she introduced us to her research. I like to highlight two more persons she introduced and of whom I wish to learn more about in the near future. And definitely will thanks to her new book!

First: Henry van de Velde 

Henry van de Velde (1863 – 1957)  was a Belgian painter, architect and interior designer. His influence on the Belgium Art Nouveau was big and he is considered to be one of the founders of this movement. Van der Velde got introduced to Javanese Batik through the collection of Thorn Pikker in 1894. Where artists and designers in the Netherlands used the technique of Batik, because it was handmade and fitted perfect with the ideas of the Art Nouveau movement, Van der Velde took the unusual step of using industrial imitations of Javanese batiks that at the beginning of the twentieth century were printed in several factories in the Netherlands as well as in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.*
He used the imitations in interiors, but also dressed friends and family in it. The ultimate Batik Statements in black and white from a century ago!
In Maria's article on Henry's love for and work with Batik, mostly imitation batik fabrics, you will also find more pictures of his friends and family dressed in batik motifs. Request a copy through the link at the end of this post.

Henry van de Velde and his family at their house “Hohe Pappeln” in 1912

Second: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c. 1910-1996) was an Aboriginal women who started making Batik when she was 67 years old. With a group of women she was producing batik in the desert under the name Utopia Batik.**** This hard way of producing batik outside made Emily switch to painting with acrylic when she was 80. Her switch from textiles to painting put her on the map as one of the biggest artist from Australia. An overview exhibition in Osaka in 2008 was to best ever visited exhibition ever held in Japan! A whole chapter in Maria's book is about this grand lady and her wonderful batiks. What an inspiration!

Installation view of a museum visitor looking at Kngwarreye’s batiks at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, 2008. Photo: Sonja Balaga

Read more on/in/at:

* From Maria Wronska-Friend's article 'Henry van de Velde and Javanese batik'. In the book 'Henry van de Velde: interior design and decorative arts: a catalogue raisonnĂ© in six volumes: volume 2: textiles.' 2014. Request a copy on

** More on 'De Nieuwe Kunst', the Dutch Art Nouveau movement, in these previous posts 'Batiking men in 1918', 'Little Red Riding Hood, where are you going?', 'Vlisco designer Johan Jacobs' and 'Give honor to whom it’s due'

*** Article on Emily's exhibition in Japan in 2008 "Emily Kame Kngwarreye in Japan"

**** More on 'Utopia Batik' and by Ingkerr anyent-antey in The language of batik

*****More on Aboriginal Art in the previous post 'Follow this line'