October 23, 2020

How to get Batik into This New Normal

In a time it seems everything is taking place online it has been quiet on my blog. Not that I didn’t write or because you haven’t visit. The opposite. My blog has been visited so much, especially in the beginning of the pandemic and I am happy with all the new readers that reached out! Yesterday I joined this amazing online launch on a fully virtual made Batik exhibition and I thought I needed to write an update here on these past few months.

Opening of Virtual Exhibition by Kibas

Batik under covid

When Covid became a global pandemic it had a huge impact on Batik. The sales in Batik dropped and most Batikworkshops on Java stopped producing for several months. Batik depends, must like other local crafts unfortunately, on tourism. Not just tourists from abroad, but also Indonesians themselves. For example Lasem and Pekalongan are both cities that have many people visiting just to buy Batik and of course they combine it with trying out the food specialities and going to Museums or events. I saw myself last year how Lasem is catering more and more to tourism and it had a great positive impact. Old buildings, like Rumah Merah or Rumah Oei, have been restored and turned into cultural hotspots with great guest-rooms. Cultural Batiktrips got organised by different parties, like Awesome Lasem, were a group of people would just hop from Batikworkshop to Batikworkshop while enjoying nature and food. 

Most Batikworkshop have specific deals with specific parties, like resellers or shops, but also organisations that do events and tours. It is great for Batikowners and makers since they can focus on making Batik and not on the marketing. For all parties connected to a Batikworkshop they can connect different businesses and all make profit from the growing interest in Bartik. However as soon as Covid happened, it showed how fragile this system is. If sells dropped and people can not travel, all parties get affected. However Batikmakers get affected the most, they can not do anything else then just produce Batik. And if they stop, all else stops also. For the resellers, shops and organisations there is little they can do if they can't sell any Batiks...Sooo it was very good to see that actually some organisations really made an effort in providing income for the Batikmakers. A lot start making facemasks, but also just did fundraising campaigns so Batikmakers could get paid even without Batiks being sold. Kesengsem Lasem were I gave my talk last year was fast to response to the pandemic. They focussed first mostly on giving informations on wearing masks and on how to disinfecting working surfaces so people could continue working safely. They went around town giving cleaning products to batikmakers, but also foodsellers. It shows such dedication to keeping your whole community safe. Really inspiring!

Zoom/Talk/Insta lives

Of course most organisations turn online. Which is great for me, but I wonder how great it is for the Batikmakers. In the talks from Indonesia I see mostly the same people, often the bigger Batik bosses and heads of all kinds of yayasans (stichting/foundation). Smaller Batikworkshop owners and batikmakers aren't really invited to talk Batik. However interesting topics do get discussed, mostly in Bahasa Indonesia and sometimes in English. One question keeps popping up: How to get Batik into This New Normal? Batik is under constant threat;  Competing with the Fast Fashion Fake printed textiles called 'Batik Print' and it is getting extinct since most Batikmakers are above 50 years old and younger generations see no future in working long laborful days for little payment. Batik need to become fair, safe and independent. It need to become sustainable. Not in the future, but Now.

And so are much other things in our lives that need to become sustainable, it is all connected and we are running out of time. Of course in this moment are hands are also partly bound. There is only so much you can do from afar and reaching the Batikmakers was difficult even before this pandemic ruled the world.

The New Normal

I was invited by Modemuze to be one of the bloggers for their exhibition 'The New Normal' in collaboration with OSCAM. I didn't write on Batik, but I was happy to put some of the feelings and thoughts on current events on digital paper and reflect on the role fashion plays in it all.  My reflecting post Creating shared experiences at a distance focus on the work shown by Karim Adduchi and other pieces from the Modemuze collection that are made from a same drive. Looking at what people make together even without being able to actually be together works inspiring and healing. 

Creating shared experiences at a distance at The New Normal at OSCAM

A work, or well a dress, that I highlight in my blog, I saw in the exhibition 'Mode op de Bon' in the Verzetsmuseum, also in Amsterdam. The exhibition showed the creative and often sustainable solution people came up with to be able to wear nice, even fashionable cloths during war time. One dress stood out right away. It is a full length Gala looking dress which from up-close turns out the be made from all small patches. The dress made during the Second World war is made from no less than 1280 'silks'(‘zijdjes’). These pieces of silk were giving as a kind of promotional gift with Turmac cigarettes. This specific series has all kinds of Wayang figures on it. Just collecting enough pieces to make the dress would have been already a challenge. It is unknown if the dress was ever worn or who even made it. I like to think this project most have given the maker comfort and hope, imagining the first party in freedom were this dress could have been worn.

Dress from Turmac silks
collection Museum Rotterdam, inv. nr. 68832
 Photo Sabine Bolk

The exhibition at OSCAM in Amsterdam (NL) will be on display till 2 November so go check it out and on Modemuze you can read all the blogs including mine (in Dutch)

Staying Connected

My Bday Batik Day Zoom - if you would like to watch, please send me an email

While this year moved very slow, it also moved surprisingly fast. When in March are 'intelligent lockdown' started my agenda became very empty. I though I would have much time to focus on my ongoing researchproject Re-telling the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik, but it was hard to work without access to the collection, online database and much needed guidance. So the first weeks I spend mostly making plans to fill my week;  I made an stopmotion, I discussed my Art in my home, I was on IG live at aNERDgallery, made an onlineprogramma for the cancelled Tong Tong Fair together with Guave and much more.

I am good at keeping myself busy, but all the cancelling, replanning and recancelling is taking its toll on my motivation. I am trying to focus again on my research and on the works I am making inspired by this research. One of these works, I started last year. The idea was to creating a Batik based on a classic Java Print by Vlisco and hereby return it to it original form. The original form of this specific Java Print being a Batik Tiga NegeriNegeri from Negara which mean Country and Tiga meaning Three. So believed was that these types of Batiks were produced in three regions on Java in the 19th century in three different styles. My plan was to send the Batik to different Batikmakers/Artist each making one layer of the batik, adding one colour. So that it again produced in three places, but now three countries. The first copy I made I brought to Java were Miss Siti continued on it. In February, just before the lockdown, the Guave ladies picked the pieces up at Miss Siti in Batang. They are so great! 

I just finished a second Batik, today I will boil out the wax and this piece will go first to the USA. It goes much slower this project then planned, but I am happy with this idea of working together abroad and reflecting on this history, the colonial and the textile trade. So a little sneak peak for now.

Making of

After dyeing, but still with wax

Saya harap semua orang tetap sehat dan sampai jumpa lagi, Hati-hati dan Kembali!

Stay safe, saty healthy and take care of yourself & your surroundings,

Kind regards & warm wishes,


July 24, 2020

Gringsing, warrior pants or fever catcher

Photo of man in Batik pants with Gringsing motif, 
'Portret van een lid van het huispersoneel', 
ca. 1890-1900, collection NMVW, number TM-60008404

On the first of June my article 'De he­len­de krach­ten van het gring­s­ing-mo­tief 'on the batikmotif Gringsing was published on Modemuze. My article was a reaction to the theme-page posted before on Modemuze with the title 'The Fashion of Protection'. The post was made inspired by and in reference to the current pandemic we are in.In it Grinsging is mentioned as an apotropaic motif. The motif is widely known with Batikfans, however I knew little of it and thought it would be nice to explore this motif in more depth, especially in this strange and scary times we are in.
Hope you are safe and able to social distance! Keep in mind that although it is very cool that in past time and maybe still Gringsing was used as a protective cloth, better to wear a facemask, wash your hands and keep keeping that distance.

Batik with Gringsing motif hanging to dry after dye bath, 
at batikworkshop Winotosastro in Yogyakarta, Java (ID) in 2016

Grinsing, or Gringsing is a motif build up from little halve circles with a dot in the middle of each circle. Gringsing is a backgroundmotif, isen-isen, or filling motif. This means that it is used on the background of a Batik design. Filling motifs always have names and meanings, but they are seldom the main motif. However when Gringsing is used it is often the main meaning of the Batik cloth: namely to protect the wearer from illness.
Protection can simple be gained by wearing it or by using it during rituals. In these rituals a traditional medicine man, doekoen, or family member would wrap the cloth with the Gringsing motif around the sick person. The cloth in this way would catch the illness, specifically fever. The motif is very common in slendangs, a small Batik used as a carrier for babies. It is especially important to protect newborns from disease, so a little extra support is always helpful.

I contacted different Batikexperts about the meaning and the use of the Gringsing motif. What I noticed was that immediately they pointed out that this use was in the past. Often one gets a giggly respons when talking about old rituals connected to folk belief. The general feel is that they are outdated or just superstition and don't match with modern (Islamic) believes. But most folk beliefs are connected to Kejawen and are embedded with traditional Javanese culture. 
I did find a nice reference in the book 'Gedragen doeken' by Liesje de Leeuw. In the chapter 'Oma's sarong vangt koorts' ('Grandmothers sarong catches fever') Evy van Cauter tells how her Indonesian mother-in-law would use one of her old sarongs when someone got ill. She would wrap the children with fever tightly in the cloth and put them to bed. "The sarong would catch the fever", Van Cauter says.
My contacts did all tell me that Gringsing was very old. The motif also has different versions in different regions on Java. There is one that is more square, others are more diamond shaped. Inspired by this writing this blogpost, I thought it would be nice if you can learn about this and practice these different types of Gringsing in a colouringpage

The colouring pages are free to download on my website

On Java makers and wearers distinguish themselves with motifs connected to their region. There are even motifs that are strictly for the royal family, Vorstenlanden or 'princely lands' Batik motifs. These 'prohibited' motifs, Larangan, are good recognisable by their repetitive designs. Within the kraton familymembers each family would get their own versions of certain motifs like Parang or Kawung.
These motifs are symbol for balance, inner peace and decisiveness. Qualities fitting with good leadership. Nowadays the Larangan motifs are worn by everybody and are made by almost all batikworkshops. These motifs are extremely populair because of their connection to power. Gringsing is also very populair and is also being made all across Java, however it is not one of these formally prohibited motifs.

Books with info on Gringsing, 
starting at the top; 'batik klasik' by Dr. Hamzuri (1981), 
'Batik, Fabled cloth of Java' by Inger McCabe Elliot (1984), 
'Gedragen Doeken' by Liesje de Leeuw (2016), 
'Ensiklopedia, the Heritage of Batik' by Primus Supriono (2016) 
and 'Batik, ontwerp, stijl en geschiedenis' by Fiona Kerlogue (2004)

Looking for answers I turned to my books on Batik. Gringsing is described as frog-rill, scales, snake or dragon skin with a note that it wards of diseases. It is also not helping that the double Ikat weaving technique from the region Tenganan on Bali is called the same - with a slightly different spelling - Gerinsing. This ikat also has the same meaning.
The meaning is being explained through the literal translation of the word in Sankrit: 'Gering' is 'sick' or 'illness', while 'sing' is 'not' or 'no'. About the correctness of this explanation are different opinions, just as on the possible similarities between these two Indonesian textiles. In short the motifs just don't look enough alike to explain their similar name and meaning.

After going through the books I owned, I ended up at my PDF version of one of the oldest books on Batik, 'De Batik-kunst in Nederlandsch-Indië en haar geschiedenis' by G.P. Rouffaer and Dr. H.H. Juynboll from 1914. According to Rouffaer Gringsing is one of the oldest Batikmotifs. It is mentioned in different Javanese sources and the oldest of these sources is the Pararaton, Pustaka Raja or the Book of Kings from the 13th century.
In this manuscript are short stories on the kings of the Singhasari and Majapahit empire. These empires boundaries stretched beyond Java, over other Indonesian islands and part of what is now Malaysia. In 1896 linguist Dr. J.L.A. Brandes published a study of the manuscript with translations in Dutch. 
Another important source that is mentioned by Rouffaer is the Malat. A Balinese manuscript from the legacy of  linguist H.N. van der Tuuk. In here Grinsging is connected with different types of Wayang stories, shadow puppet theatre. Rouffaer uses Plate 58 in as an example in his book. It shows a square cloth, possible a headscarf, that was part of a series of samples with motifs from Yogyakarta. 

'Batikpatroon: Gringsing wayang',  from before 1891, number RV-847-114, collection NMVW 
Published as plate 58 in 'De Batik-kunst in Nederlandsch-Indië en haar geschiedenis' from 1914

The square cloth shows different Wayang characters surrounded by Gringsing. Rouffaer thinks this is an example of 'Gringsing Wajang', which is mentioned in the old sources mentioned in this article. However the 'Gringsing Wajang' is also a motif within the earlier mentioned Geringsing, the double woven ikats from bali. In the book 'Five centuries of Indonesian textiles - the Mary Hunt Kahlenberg collection' is a beautiful example included.

Photo of page 218 -219 from the book 
'Five centuries of Indonesian textiles - the Mary Hunt Kahlenberg collection' 

One of the biggest discoveries Rouffaer made was that Gringsing was in the 16th century part of the ‘Javaanse oorlogskostuum’ (Javanese war uniform) as he calls it:

"Yet before, in earlier times, especially in the 16th century, Yes, then Javanese would wear a martial semi-long pants, their lantjingan, of batiked cloth. And again mainly with that Gringsing-motif..."

“Doch vroeger. Speciaal in de 16e eeuw. Ja, toen droegen de Javanen hun krijgshaftige haIf lange broek, hun lantjingan, van gebatikte stof. En alweer voornamelijk in dat gringsing-patroon”…” - Rouffaer, G.P., De Batik-kunst in Nederlandsch-Indië en haar geschiedenis, page. 430.

That these warrior pants were made of ikat was less likely. If you put scissors to a so fine woven ikat like that it would unravel without stopping. Yet the royal family did wear pants of woven Songket and Ikat fabric if I am not mistaken, but it had to be woven in that shape already, so an very expensive product. 
So the old manuscript might be writing about Batik, or Ikat, or Batik...
Rouffaer also concluded that the Gringsing Batikmotif could only be made with the use of a canting, waxpen. 

To conclude, Gringsing is very old, maybe the oldest Batikmotifs known. It possible gave warriors strenght and protection, exactly what we need now in our battle against Covid-19. A fitting motif in these difficult and scary times.

Thanks Modemuze, Modemuze editor-buddy Roberto Luis martins, my Batikmentor Pak William Kwan and fellow batik-fan Jennifer Wanardi! 

The colouring pages are free to download on my website

May 13, 2020

Indonesian Cookbook 'Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken'

The Indonesian cookbook 'Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken' by Maureen Tan next to pink klepon made by me

End of last year Maureen Tan contacted me if I was able to help her with an idea for her upcoming, and now published, Indonesian Cookbook. The cookbook 'Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken' is part of a series by Carrera Culinair and although the format is similar for every book each author makes the book trully their own. Maureen Tan explained she was making the book with recipes written down by her mother and complimented with recipes by others. Her wish was to include Batiks in the book.
When I heard it was a book on almost all Indonesian islands, I thought it would be nice if it would not be just Batiks featured in the book as decoration, but that the textiles used for the book would actually match with the location of the recipes.
With an list of possible places of recipes that would make the book, I started looking for the best matches. Because I do not own textiles of all Indonesian islands, I asked my dear friends Rachma Sri Mulyani Saloh and Ine WawoRuntu if they had textiles I could borrow.
Ibu Rachma is very active as a dancer in the dancegroup Wahana Budaya Nusantara, gives wonderful workshops to mostly Indonesian students in both dance and cooking. She is from Kalimantan and lives already many years in the Netherlands. Her knowlegde on places in Indonesia and their traditional wear is really remarkable. She had so many nice pieces and a small selection made it into the book. For example a beautiful silk sarong from Kalimantan is used for that chapter on page 132. On page 80 you find a great bright red woven piece with tiny beads from North Sumatra from her collection.
Ibu Ine is very active in promoting Indonesian culture in the Netherlands and does great work with her Stichting Hibiscus in Indonesia. I know her for many years and we try to help eachother when possible. I was so happy she could lend me some textiles, I or Ibu Rachma did not have. For example the small, but so lovely ikat from Lombok used on page 387 for the Chapter 'Kleine Soenda-eilanden'.

Selecting Indonesian textiles for the book at Ibu Rachma.
Although I have many textiles, my collection is mostly Batik.
So for the cookbook I was very lucky I could borrow textiles from my dear friends!

Book open on page 80 - 83, Chapter 'Sumatra'.
Showing a woven fabric with white beads woven into the textile on page 80.
On page 82 an orange woven fabric with red, green and blue accents and goldcoloured thread.
This fabric was one of the fabrics I could borrow from Ine WawoRuntu.
It matched perfectly with the sambal!
The book is photographed on the same fabric.
Terima kasih banyak, dear Ine for lending out your Indonesian textiles for this book!

All gathered Indonesian textiles.
With the help of Iby Ine and Ibu Rachma I was able to collect Indonesian textiles
to represent all regions featured in the book.
For every region, we had multiple options,
so that on the shooting day the best matches could be made

Book open om page 169, Chapter 'Sulawesi'.
For this chapter a yellow sarong with purple stripes
that is apart of the traditional wear Baju Bodo from Makassar, South Sulawesi.
It is photographed on a similar sarong with an orange base

In January I headed to Amsterdam with a trolley filled with Indonesian textiles. Maureen Tan was making in a few weeks all dishes in her home, every day about 15 recipes were made, styled and photographed. On the day I came, all covers for the chapters, most sambals and a couple of basic recipes were documented for the book. I was trying to get big folds out of the fabrics, but we luckily all agree that it would be nicest if you could clearly see that it were actual textiles. So kept the ironing to a minimum, and also becauce most woven textiles can not be ironed at all. In the afternoon we shared a lunch of all the things that were made that day and Maureen even made some extra for the vegetarians (me) at the table.

Photographer Sven Benjamins checking the photos he took.
The endresult is shown in the next photo, page 207 in the book

Book open on page 207, Chapter 'West-Java',
showing a peanut sambal on a Batik Tulis by batikworkshop Luminutu in Lasem.
The unfinished Batik had only its first colourbath, blue.
The mainmotif in de 'kepala' are two peacocks representing fidelity.
The book is photographed on top of the same Batik Tulis
Busy in the kitchen, from right to left: Chef and author Maureen Tan,
food-stylist Caroline van Beek and cookbook-kitchen-helper Rick Veenboer

Book open on page 202, Chapter West-Java, showing a Batik Tulis from Cirebon
which I could borrow from Rachma Sri Mulyani Saloh.
She also gave me the beautiful natural dye on which I photographed the book, also from Cirebon.
Dear Rachma many thanks for lending us your Indonesian textiles for the book!

Food-stylist Caronline van Beek is placing a sambal on a Batik.
The final photo you find in Chapter 'Oost-Java en Madura' on page 297.
The Batik Cap with motifs of bikes and coffeleaves is made by Batik Rolla in Jember, East-Java.
It was inspired by the designers background, her Dutch grandfather and coffeegrowing father

The book was published on 24 April, of course not with any big launch event and that is such a pity. But you can enjoy almost daily post by Maureen Tan on her Instagram and Facebook in which she shares recipes from her book with cooking instructions.
I also tried for the very first time to make 'klepon'. A favorite when I am on Java and on any Indonesian event in the Netherlands. This sticky riceflower balls with sweet palmsugar inside covered in cocos are not only jummy, but very pretty. I wanted to me the orginal green ones, but at the local toko it was all sold out {Me and Maureen both wonder how many people are trying out her recipes, please comment below if you have the book and made something from it}. So I bought the next in line 'Coco Pandan', which turned out to be the bright pink one. I also bought palmsugar from the toko without realizing I normally avoid any palmproducts. On Facebook I got this great tip for next time, palmsugar by Red Ape, which actually protects orangutans in the process {:(|)
Me and Koen spend last Sunday making the 'klepon'. I added first too much to the mix, then way to much cocoswater. I created a bowl full of what looked like very sticky bumble gum. Koen coached me through it, haha, and in the end we manage to make a huge amount of 'klepon'. Our neighbors and Koen's colleagues already enjoyed a batch and the rest I froze in to share on a later date with my family.

Thank you Maureen for including me in your wonderful project :)))
It was also a great learning experience exploring different textiles from all over Indonesia.
You can now buy 'Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken' by Maureen Tan, check out your local bookstore on or offline.

Book open on page 349 - 351, Chapter 'Bali',
showing a Batik Tulis with the Goddess of Water and a Karbouw,
made by an artist on Bali in the 70's,
on top of a Batik by the same artist with Dewi Sri, the Goddes of Rice.
Both Batiks were gifted to me by a lady who lived on Bali and wore these to the beach

 Recipe to make 'Klepon'
Chapter 'Oost-Java en Madura'  page 340 
Book surrounded by the ingredients

My 'Klepon' result! First try making this,
made many mistakes, like not follow the quantities to well,
and ended up with pink ones, but still very jummie!

April 20, 2020

11 tahun perjalanan ke Batik

= 11 years the journey to Batik

A month ago, just when the Netherlands started with their 'intelligent lockdown', I published a new blogpost. I wished people who had the opportunity and privilege to stay at home with free time, would use this time to read, learn and explore. My blog has never been visited as much as this last month! Old blogposts have been viewed and I feel very glad my 11 years of blogging is providing much to explore now! So thank you for following & re-reading my journey to Batik!
If you are a new reader, welcome, and if you are returning, thank you!
Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts, ideas and questions on this post or my blog in general.

I planned to do more blogging, but I spend my time mostly making other online content and written articles for other platforms. However it seems online is the new world, so I will definitely make new posts for here.
Although we live now in a world that is changing and seems scary at times, I think sticking with tradition and keeping, or re-inventing habits, will help getting through this time. So also now I want to celebrate my blog's birthday. Can you believe I am blogging for 11 years!
Last year I was so lucky I got to celebrate my 10th year of The journey to Batik so big! I made exhibitions, events, gave lectures, workshops...I shared Batik in 2019 in the Netherlands, on Java and online the whole year through. I had many plans for this year, but I was also thinking on the online presence of Batik and how to share my journey and current research in a accessible way. This is not so much a matter of making time, but also of having budget. Of course budget will not be easy in this time, but luckily I already have multiple other online platforms which allow me to share & connect. My blog, Social Media, YouTube and online platforms like Modemuze are and already were my ways of sharing my thoughts, stories, new discoveries and questions. So I will explore this further for the time being.

For this post, I will be sticking with tradition. "To have connection, you have to do things for a long time", freely quoted after what professor Marli Huijer said in the TV programme ''Floortje Blijft Hier'. Normally Floortje Dessing makes travel-programs, visiting people living on the edges of the world taking planes, trains, busses, cars, camels, you name it, to get there. "You don't need to travel the world to share stories, you can share stories here, now". I really connect with what was Marli Huijer said. Slowly moving forward, that is the feeling I often have. At times it is frustrating and I have so many failures along the way, but looking back I can really enjoy all the steps I was able to make and can see how far I have come. The last 5 years I have been posting new posts around 21 April to celebrate my blog's birthday. These posts usually included a Batik Statement and big news or new plans.

To see them, click the links below:
in 2019 'Busy with Batik'
in 2018 'Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Pagi-Sore'
in 2017 'Behind the scenes'
in 2016 'The journey to Batik'
in 2015 'Hari Kartini'

Now no big new news, but I will be looking back at a Batik Statement series I created for last Cultuurnacht, Culture Night, in Breda.
I started making Batik Statement already 8 years ago. The first one I made was a Batik-fashion-tribute-to-fashion-bloggers in 2012. Being a blogger, but not at all a fashion blogger, I thought it would be fun to explore this world of pretending-to-be-fashion-while-being-at-home and create looks with Batik. I got a great response to it and kept making and sharing Batik Statements. I also got Batik Statements from others and even did four Batik Statement events. However I never really used it in an Art-type of way.
When Pieter Vastbinder asked me and Koen de Wit for his yearly Spiegelhol event at the BelcrumWatertoren during the Cultuurnacht, I had the idea of exploring the 'colonial mirror', or better my view in that mirror.
Looking for ways of addressing colonial history and how we reflect on this past, I got inspired by 'Bigi Spikri' and the selfie-culture of Indonesia. 'Bigi Spikri' is a Surinamese word which translates into 'Big mirror'. During big festive parades dressed up people would walk the streets of Paramaribo seeing themselves reflected in the shopwindow. These shopwindows functioned as big mirrors to admire yourself in. The 'Bigi Spikri' parade is closely related to 'Keti Koti'. 'Keti Koti' celebrated on 1 of July that marks the date when slavery was abolished in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles in 1863. The parade is a returning part of this remembrance and it is not only a way of admire beauty in diversity, but also to invite others to reflect on this past.
In the BelcrumWatertoren I created a shopwindow in which I displayed books, objects and textiles that I use to learn from and reflect on our colonial past.
Next to that I showed a slide-show of photos I made in the Netherlands and Indonesia showing how we deal with this past. During my last visit to Indonesia in October, I was much more focussed on our shared history and visited more old sites. The cellphone-culture which I already encountered from 2009, is now transformed into a full on selfie-culture. Next to being asked a lot to pose for photos, people pose everywhere. Places for me filled with heavy feelings are now popular for the youth as pretty backdrops for their Insta-shots. Old Dutch places even got fixed up, and re-used. Before these colonial memories were literally falling apart. So an interesting development which allows us to reflect better on this past even if it is through a filter with someone making a peace sign.

To bring this inspiration together and make my 'colonial mirror' even more visible, I made a Batik Statement series. With the great help of Koen de Wit, we made analog dia-slides on 30 December 2019. It was very cold, but with a beautiful blue sky and we found a great spot with water in the background.
I made 5 different looks using clothing and textiles from my own collection. I am especially proud of the iPhone-headpiece we created based on the ear-irons worn in Dutch Traditional wear. It was good for many laughs and the result works so well.
Also very happy with how my koto-skirt turned out using a Vlisco Java Print and a lot of pins. The Java Print has a motif of a big standing mirror. It was designed in 2016 for the Vlisco 'Woven Wisdom' collection. For me immediately it was linked with the reflection we should make with our past, and I sheepishly thought Vlisco refer to that with this collection...However I instantly thought of this fabric for this photoshoot and was happy it was still available.
Without going in much further detail, I just want to share the series here with you. During the Cultuurnacht it was projected in a loop. These are digital scans of the dia-slides. We had multiple of each look and I picked my favourites to share here with you, enjoy!

*All photos made in collaboration with Koen de Wit 

March 18, 2020

A Royal encounter with Batik

During these troubled times with fighting an invisible enemy, the Coronavirus, we don't really get the opportunity to talk about other matters and thats very logical. Be safe first, keep your distance, but also reach out to your family, friends and neighbors and see how you can help. This time can be used well for those who are not sick, or have work we can't do without right now, or don't have their kids at home. For these people use this time to learn and reflect.
I hope my blog can be one of these places to read, enjoy and study. Since I am stuck at home, my research can continue from here, but I can't access any actual archives. Probably most other work, like public talks will be cancelled also, so luckily I have my own online Batik world.

Before Covid-19 was all the news, we in the Netherlands were very focussed on our Royal couple and their upcoming, and just ended, state visit. There was commotion on the timing (they went in March, while Indonesia will be 75 years independent in August), questions on if there would be finally an apology and when it came it was about if the apology should have come from our King. And lastly on the return of a Keris that would, or could have been from Prins Diponegoro (1785 – 1855), but should have been found earlier, returned sooner and not used as a political tool.
I follow this news closely, from both and other sides. I found it important to know current political developments regarding our colonial history, and yes, a visit to a former colony will always be connected to that history. I don't really share about it, since I don't want to get in online fights...however you will find from the links above what my thoughts are.
With all this going on it didn't caught my attention until Danar Hadi posted it on their Instagram, that our queen Máxima had a little Batik encounter.

In 2014 I dedicated a post to our former queen, prinses Beatrix, on how she uses her clothing as tools of expression. She did wear clothing with Batik and Chintz motifs, of which I still don't know if they are handmade or printed textiles, but she wore them on interesting moments in time {Read more in the blogpost Dutch(n)ess}.
Her daughter-in-law, our current queen Máxima, doesn't use clothing in the same. She is very fashionable, but there is no hidden messages to be found, which often is a pity. Yet she started many fashion-trends, we all recall the postbode-zak couture (Mailbag couture). 
So I am not that focussed on what she is wearing, but was focussed on their activities while they visiting many locations in Indonesia. I spotted them wrapped in Ikat, trying a lot of food, but no Batik...until yesterday!
Apparently the day of The Apology, was also the day queen Máxima was shown some Batik during the visit to the presidential palace in Bogor. The palace is at the Botanical Gardens I visited last year. The palace is impressive building with colonial roots. After the post on Danar Hadi, I did some research, and the Queen was not only shown Batik, she tried it even! On only one media outlet I found a picture her making Batik!

Queen Máxima making Batik, source Vanitatis Style

I also asked around and got kindly from Miss Asti of Museum Danar Hadi some background information. Danar Hadi advised Ibu Iriana, the first lady of Indonesia, to make a display of Batiks with a Indo-European influence, either old ones made by for example Batikentrepreneurs Van Zuylen or Metzelaar or new interpretations made by Danar Hadi. Danar Hadi in Jakarta made the pop-up exhibition at the palace, so it is unclear if the pieces are new or old. But they wanted to address this shared history that can be found in the heritage of Batik.
The piece Queen Máxima is photographed with the most, I could vaguely trace back to a piece I saw during my last visit to the Danar Hadi Batik museum in Solo. The piece attributed Batikentrepreneur Von Franquemont, whom I am researching, is on display right next to a sign with her name. Apart from that, this attribution must be taken very, very lightly. From what I gathered the information got mixed up from the collection over time, was wrongly translated and from the beginning lacked real evidence. Still fun that from all pieces, it is, a new made interpretation of this one, she seems to be wearing.

Batik in the left corner shows a similar motif on the Badan, body, of the cloth, 
photo by me at Museum Danar Hadi

Queen Máxima looking at Batik in pop-exhibition by Danar Hadi, source Paparazzi.buzz

On photos were more of the display is shown, not all Batiks shown, show a clear selection on Indo-European style. The one she was holding and the one on a mannequin has things we can interpret as Indo-European influence, but the rest seems to be clearly more modern designs.
While looking for the photos of the queen, I remembered previous collections made by Danar Hadi inspired by Indo-European Batik designs. They make a ready to wear collection called DAYS. 
DAYS is made with only printed textiles, but based on designs from the huge collection of original handmade Batiks. So often designs are very recognisable, although they get modernised.

DAYS 2018 Collection inspired by Chinese parade motif 

They had a recent collection with bouquets and birds. One with a Chinese parade in 2018, based on a famous Batik attributed to Batikentrepeneur Van Oosterom, who I am also researching, and can be found on the cover of 'Van koelies, klontongs en kapiteins; Het beeld van de Chinezen in Indisch-Nederlands literair proza 1880-1950' by Widjajanti Wediarini Dharmowijono.
But then there was the one that still surprised me. The DAYS collection from 2017 had the name Prajurit, soldier. It is a one on one copy of Batiks know as Batik Kompeni, or Batik Perang Lombok. Thought is that they depict the Lombok War (1894) and were made for the winner, which are in this case the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL). The story goes that KNIL soldiers would order these Batiks to display their victory. Adding to this, they made their wives wear them.
There is still much unclear on how accurate the story on these type of Batiks is, but there are many Batiks with war scenes depicted on them dated from early 1890's till beginning of the 19th century. The only pictures I found thus far of people wearing them, is of Javanese women accompanied by KNIL  soldiers... 
A complex design on many levels and I think appropriate to address here. To show the shared history through Batik, we have many options. But we also have to first uncover their stories better, who made them and why, and in more depth. However it is interesting that a motif I see as problematic, was used as a Fashionable print. In view of Cultural Appropriation this is also a very difficult one to explain. What happened in many Indo-European designs was in fact an early example of Cultural Appropriation. Yet it was made first specifically by and for a group that was of Indonesian and European descent. And this is were the bridge is, a not so easy to take bridge, looking back at the beginning of this post with all the thoughts on our Royal couple visiting Indonesia. But it is a bridge we have to maintain by sharing stories, so we can build a stronger path to pass on our shared history and heritage.

Arak - Arakan Pecinan Nerdy Cute Shirt from the 2018 DAYS by Danar Hadi Collection

'Prajurit' announcement from the DAYS by Danar Hadi collection on Instagram in September 2017

'Prajurit' shirt for men from the DAYS by Danar Hadi collection

The original Batik on which the 'Prajurit' collection is based on display 
at Danar Hadi Museum in Solo, photo by me

*** Photos are from different media sources online or by me - source is mentioned, of some it is the site it was published on

February 11, 2020

Power Dressing - introducing Diyan of Kain Kita

Berbagi Cerita Kain Vol. 2, Sharing Fabric Stories, a Kain Kita event

During my last visit to Java, October 2019, I had many surprising encounters. Not all nice, but some very nice, so overall the balance was right.
For my first talk at Museum Tekstil in Jakarta, for which by far I was the most nervous, I got to must wonderful moderator, Nurdiyansah Dalidjo. He look so sharp in his white blouse on a loosely wrapped sarong. He addressed me in perfect English asking me all kinds of questions on my research.  Since I didn't really get much information on the event before, I had no idea who he was, but it was such a warm and interesting welcome. We talked short about what we both did and agreed on exchanging our activities on our platforms, since sharing is the best way of getting our messages across. So meet Diyan of Kain KitaPenjelajah Rempah.

Diyan introducing me at Museum Tekstil, October 2019
Photo by Daniel Singaland

Nurdiyansah (Diyan) is an interdisciplinary writer, researcher, and activist who seeks to memorialise the role of spices as the ingredients that fueled the revolution in Indonesia. He started his career as a journalist and has a master’s degree in tourism, and has over 10 years’ experience in development issues. He is currently based in Jakarta and spends his time exploring colonial histories through food and textiles in Indonesia.

Following Diyan on Social Media I got more and more inspired by what he shared. A post on his Instagram showed him posing casually in a woven textile from the weavers from Rendu, Nusa Tenggara Timur, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands. He start the post with the word "Power Dressing!", he continuing to explain that wearing fabrics made by Indigenous women is a way of connecting to their struggle, a way of addressing it. That their struggle of functioning in a world dominated by patriarchy, is closely related to Diyan's own position in the Indonesian world dominated by heteronormativity. 
"I define myself as queer. I was born and raised in Jakarta, but both my parents are from Yogyakarta - a region in Indonesia known for its Batik. As a city kid, kain {textiles in Bahasa Indonesia} is not part of our daily lives. Many people in the metropolitan especially the youth labels kain as something traditional, old, complicated to wear and just not modern thing.... Kain as a tradition is also downgraded by the Developmentalism that is considered important in Jakarta. Traditional textiles get marginalised, alienated.... until now the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia are still not acknowledged." Diyan wrote me.
When following recent developments in Indonesia there doesn't seem much improvement in this acknowledge of the rights of Indigenous people, nor for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. I was on Java when the student demonstrations were held, and it seemed their protest were in vain (read a little more here & here).
"Kain inspired me not to give up. Kain become a symbol from which I can show my to support women. By buying kain I can support these women economically. And with Kain Kita I can share their story."
Diyan, together with Cassandra Grant, started Kain Kita, to share the power of Indonesian textile through online articles, events and more. They share stories from makers and hope to inspire the youth to buy kain directly from the makers.  
Through their #WomenAreHeroes series, Kain Kita introduce women from across Indonesia who use kain as a means to reclaim their rights and authority over their selves and bodies, cultural identity, and their traditional territories.
For example the story of Mama Aleta. Aleta Kornelia Ba’un (more commonly known as Mama Aleta) is an indigenous woman from the Molo community in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). Her fame as an indigenous leader and activist has spread across Indonesia and internationally, largely due to her success in staging weaving protests against mining companies and preventing the destruction of her community’s sacred lands. Their indigenous land is the key to their identity, the materials to weave their traditional textiles are all from here: the cotton and natural dyes. Mama Aleta managed to bring together 150 women, while being threatened violently, to spent a year sitting on the marble rocks at the quarry, quietly weaving their traditional fabrics in protest. A weaving occupation! 

From the article 'Women Are Heroes, Stories of Resistance Behind the Beauty of Kain' 22 April 2019 by Kain Kita

"Meanwhile, kain representing the hybridity. The richness of our culture is not taken for granted. Kain recorded many things, our history and how we adopted and adjusted to different cultures. 
So our kain not just as beautiful thing, but also a representation of our tolerance and shows how open we actually are to differences..."
The Indonesian saying and political campaign slogan "Bhineka Tunggal Ika",  meaning "unity in diversity" seems often a touristic cliche, but in the textiles of Indonesia this is still so clearly the case and it would be a pity if these values of Indonesia would be lost.

Diyan wearing kain tenun by the weavers of Rendu, 
Nusa Tenggara Timur, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands

Of course I was curious to know if Diyan has a favourite among all the beautiful Indonesian textiles.
He explained that he likes Ikat, a common weaving technique for the Sunda-islands. He likes it because of its complexity; in the making with the backstrap-loom and the use of natural dyes.
The favoriete textile he owns is a kain tenun by the weavers in Rendu. The textile he wears in his 'Power Dressing' post. The weaving women of Rendu are forming their own protest. A dam is planned for their region, which will cause many issues for their land, like the mining did for the people of Molo. By buying their textiles, you can support these weavers in sustaining their activities in weaving, and protesting! What a beautiful story, and what a beautiful textile! Indeed, the power of dressing!

Kain Kita goals of promoting Indonesian textiles by showing their wearability and their strength is inspiring and I am very happy I met Diyan. It was not only nice to meet him, he was also a very good moderator. He helped me so well getting my story across, translating some extra things to the audience and just gave me the support I needed.
I am also happy to find that places as Museum Tekstil in Jakarta give us the opportunity to share our stories and give our platforms space in such an important institute, so also a special thanks to Ibu Ari.
Looking forward following Kain Kita's textile journey and if you want to read more, please check them out on their website 'Kain Kita', on Instagram & YouTube!