On Friday, me 4th Day in Jakarta, I had the opportunity to talk in more depth with textile conservator Pak Benny Gratha and museum-director Ibu Ari.
I met Pak Benny at the Museum Tekstil. He was teaching a new generation, all girls, the Art of Textile conservation. It is of much importance we preserve these beautiful collection for future generations and great to see it seems to be popular to learn.
Pak Benny took the time to talk with me on ‘Tiga Negeri’ on which he did research. He published the book ‘Batik 3 Negeri Solo - Sebuah Legenda’ which actually debats one of the Batik myths that Batik Tiga Negeri was made on three locations; one city for red, one city for brown and one city for blue. According to his fieldwork ‘Tiga Negeri’ in the region Solo was not made before 1910, or was made famous by a certain batikworkshop at that time in Solo. In my research I found imitations Batiks for export to the former Dutch East Indies, Indonesia, that are earlier then 1910. What I mentioned before and had again at Museum Tekstil, the historical data available on Java is very limited, yet their knowlegde on the development of Batik goes back about 3 generations in mostly oral history. The data stored in Europe combined with the knowledge here will give a much more precise recollection of the history of Batik. Connecting collections globally will definitely help us to tell these stories better and for a wider audience. I shared with Pak Benny my intensions and some of the finds I made, got some homework again for when I get back. Things to look up and compare with pieces in their collection. Also the myths & truths on ‘Tiga Negeri’ still needs some more exploring, Pak Benny book will be very useful, thank you for the copy! I will also explore this topic with a shared Batik project, together with other batikmakers globally I will re-create ‘Tiga Negeri’, so hope to present this in the near future.
Pak Benny gave me a tour through the exhibition giving much insight on the displayed pieces. He is a big fan of the Batiks by Go Tik Swan K.R.T. Hardjonagoro and gave me some nice tips on how to recognize and date.
There are many beautiful Batiks on display and will share some highlights in this post. The exhibition will be help until 25 October, so if you’re in Jakarta make sure to visit.
In the afternoon, I joined Ibu Ari to a meeting held for all museums in Jakarta. They gather regularly with different themed program every time. This time it was on how to present objects, so from graphic design on text signs, audio-tours, to technical improvements to the space to protect object better but also elevate an exhibition. The program was held at the Maritime Heritage Gallery in Jakarta. They have all kind of ceramics found in shipwrecks from the seas around Indonesia. An interesting collection in which give nice insights in South-East Asian trade, culture exchange and with little pattern details that reminded me of early Batik Simbut and ‘Buketan’ motifs.
It was nice to attend an afternoon similar to my programs in the Netherlands and to meet people for different museums. Some I met before at the opening and other came the next day to my talk.
Day 5 in Jakarta was the launch of the research-project ‘Re-telling the history of (Indo-)European influence on Javanese Batik between 1840-1890’ on Java. It was the first time I presented this project to an audience actually and I was so happy Museum Tekstil offered me this stage. I was pretty nervous, but happily I was in the good company of the moderator of Kain Kita & translator Mas Ardi. Never worked with a translator before, but we made it work & the moderator gave some additional information of what the translator missed or of questions he ask me in between. After the talk I got some questions from the audience, there were many, but only had time for three. First I was asked if there is are clear motifs you can say are from Von Franquemont, second if I will also check Indonesian documents on this topic & third if Von Franquemont style was very different in Semarang compared to Surabaya where according to literature her workshop started. Since I still can not proof for sure which Batiks are actually made by Von Franquemont, talking about style is much to early - in books many styles are ‘invented’ by her - but most of these claims decades even a full century after she was alive - the same for the difference between Semarang and Surabaya. We first need to determine what are the specific styles within these North-coast cities, including Pekalongan and Lasem, so the development of the actual (Indo-)European influence can be mapped out more clear. And last, if there are any Javanese, Malayan or other documents still available of this time it would be great if we can include them and compare with the Dutch (and British) documents from this era. What I mostly did the passed 3 years was checking sources; so for example if one book they say a Batik by Von Franquemont is mentioned in an catalog of an exhibition in 1865, I looked it up. I also read almost all articles and handwritten documents of G.P. Rouffaer at the University Library in Leiden (NL), including studies of his character and of written pieces by colleagues from his era. His writing on Batik are at the base of almost every Batik book published since 1914!
From these questions it was clear that it is not common to first launch a project, that it is more common to share just the final conclusion. I am happy I choose a different approach for this project. I hope more questions will find their way to me (please comment, email or find me through Social Media) & happy to have made new connections already.
The morning at Museum Tekstil continued with a talk by Pak Agus Purwanto Sukrowinarso and Pak Budi Darmawan both from the new organization APPBI for Batikmakers, entrepreneurs and sellers.
There talk address some of the challenges Batik faces, but what I understood it was mostly on improving skills and quality and increasing the quantity of makers and wearers. Also, apparently, the worry was addressed of the Millennials lack of knowledge and mis-use of Batik. The observations for me sounded strange since especially Millennials globally are exploring local traditions and good and including more and more roots & culture in their dress. I think we should applaud this and just provide the right guidance so this can done appropriate and respectful to todays makers and older generations.
As I mentioned before, they also presented Batiks made by one of the workshop they support, Kaya Batik Deaf Palbatu. I saw one of them wearing a great shirt & order one to wear back home!
The event concluded with a lunch outside on the steps of the museum surrounded by Batiksellers. I had such nice talks and was so great to see familiar faces, friends and meeting new people.
It was such a wonderful day and feeling so grateful, thank you Museum Tekstil! Looking forward to our further collaboration!
Sunday I got invited to see a glimps of Pak Hartono huge Batik collection. He published four beautiful, thick books; ‘Benang Raja’, Batik Pesisir’, ‘Batik Betawi’ & ‘Batik Garutan’ the past years.
I was lucky I got the invite and even a selection was made fitting with my research-field. It was a wonderful, mind blowing afternoon being presented one high quality piece after another. Pak Hartono’s collection is not only special because of this quality and many signed pieces, he also has pieces with the same motif from different times or by different makers. So you can see the development & progress of Batik design.
I got again a lot of homework for back home, but happy I am able to include this important collection within my research. Feeling very lucky and looking forward to my Pekalongan adventures.