December 6, 2022

Pulang before pulang*

Ibu Ramini after the interview

Dyeing of batiks at Batikworkshop Lumintu in Lasem

Posing at Mbak Eka's house wearing the scarf that was made for me


Have been back now a week and a half and still need to land. But had a great return with giving a Paper Sarong workshop and attending the launch of the new Guave collection.
My last week on Java was a week with many ups & downs, but overall feel very lucky. I knew I had to ‘pulang’ before I ‘pulang.*
I returned to Lasem with the main plan to refilm Ibu Ramini’s interview. I wasn’t happy with the first take & was so glad I could do a reshoot. Ibu Ramini was much more at ease. The renovation of her house started and I was so happy to see her Javanese house being renewed. While interviewing Ibu Ramini this time, although she isn’t of much words, I saw her proud smile. Before we left, Ibu Ramini gave me a hug, the first one I think. This visit alone was worth the return to Lasem. 

Batiks hanging ready to work further on the next day

Being back in Lasem, apart from being in a place that inspires me so much, I got to hang out with some really nice people & sleep at a dream-location in Lasem. Mbak Eka of batikworkshop Lumintu invited me to stay in her home together with Miss Tasya, the enthusiastic batik fan/batik fashionmaker & wearer/apprentice of Mbak Eka. 
Waking up in this beautiful home where every day batik is being made was a present. The house breath history, keep thinking of how generations in the past lived here and so greatful to be part of the new history being written there. We had such a good time with many laughs, some scares, but overall it was amazing. Mbak Eka and Miss Tasya are sweet and true Batik heros! Terima kasih banyak! 

Pembatiks at Batikworkshop Lumintu working 
while Mbak Eka checks which Batik need what next

Covered in wax, ready to be dyed

All batiks were washed before dyeing, with regular laundry detergent. And I say regular, but that Indonesian one is a very strong one!

Nothing without smoking. Mas Heru is preparing the dyes

Yellow dye baths need extra care and diligence to get an even colour. 
Batiks with a yellow background colour are therefor more pricey ones

Mas Heru and Mas Khosim conitiuing the dyeing together

After drying, the wax can be removed. 
'Lorod', literally boiling out is done in boiling water

Wonder if Mbak Eka gets inspiration from the beautiful tiles in her house

I was also nice to revisit Oom Soesantio together with Mas Agik of Museum Nyah Lasem. Oom had a surprise for us, 5 boxes filled with caps from his fathers batikworkshop!!! 
The caps from 1930-1950’s give an interesting insight in what was produced once in Lasem. It was extra special since most caps formed a complete set. Batik Cap was done on both side of the cloth, so you need to mirroring caps to stamp the design. Usually they are sold separate, so this collection is really special. We documented all, me taking them out and matching them & Mas Agik carefully photographing them. In the meantime Oom Soesantio shared stories in Dutch with me. Grateful I got to document all this and excited about uncovering this story. Wonderful to find out about this local batik history and looking forward what else I can find about it here in the archives and collections. 

Documenting Batik Cap 

Mas Agik photographed them all in pairs

While I was at Mbak Eka I got to see many steps of the batik making process that gave me much insights. Next to the drawing of the batiks, the dyeing was done at the house, which is great to see and ask questions about. But what was also great was to see more of Mbak Eka’s work. Checking which batiks needs which steps, which colours and which new ones needed to be started. Learning about mistakes, quality controle and the overview you need to keep to get orders done on time. Mbak Eka started with her Christmas items on my last day. When I first saw her Christmas items online, I though it was so strange. Now I know how important it is to Mbak Eka and I think it is so great she takes the space to bring new, fun designs into Batik. 
While I was away in between visit, a scarf was made for me. Next to my name it is decorated with classic motifs like latohan, melati and grapes. Posing with pembatik Ibu Sutimah when it was finished was a cherry on top of my stay.

Mbak Eka drawing the new designs 

Christmas Batik designs

And one with romantic cats

Posing with Ibu Sutimah, the pembatik who made my scarf 

Happy got to end my 4th journey to Batik with a stay in Lasem. Although my journey ended on Java, for now, I will be working further on my exhibition for Erasmushuis; editing the videos I made on Java, designing the actual exhibition, making the program and much more. I will keep you posted of course. For now mark 2 October 2023 in your calendar as the startdate of my exhibition 'Masa Depan Batik/The Future of Batik' at Erasmushuis in Jakarta, Java, Indonesia!

* pulang to return (to go) back, to go home

Ready for the next dyeing session

Finished and partly finished batiks

November 25, 2022

Recover together, recover stronger

Together with Ibu Rasminah in Batang

The last train ride after the last bus right. Catching up on some writing which will probably find its way online after my return to the Netherlands. But let's see how far we get.*

After Semarang I made my way back to Pekalongan. Only a short train ride away and a short drive with Grab I was welcomed so warmly by the people at the hotel I stayed in before. Every day they would ask where I would go, or where I returned from and be like “wow”. Now they had followed my journey online and were excited to follow the next days ‘live’. 

For the first day, Tuesday 15 November, I asked Mas Qomar if he had time to accompany me. Me and Mas Qomar drove around in the region in 2016 when I made my short film. To be here with Mas Qomar again was so much fun. How he is welcomed everywhere with laughs & food, reminded me of last time, including the sound of him eating kroepoek through my recordings, haha.

First visit we made was to Ibu Rasminah. Met Ibu Rasminah in 2016. I was two days visiting pembatiks in the region Batang and it was the last stop we made. She had already heard I was making visits and thought we forgot about her… Her warm laugh draw me right to her. A week later I filmed her and heard it more often while she made a repeating pattern she found boring for me to film. In 2019 we met at the event hosted for pembatiks in the region during which I screened my short film featuring her. Sharing laughs with her now again was just so wonderful.
Now I returned, finally, with Mas Qomar who accompanied me the first visit also, so full circle again.
Happy to find Ibu Rasminah in good heath, 72 years and still making batik every day. Here again I found a bigger pile of stock than usual. Depended on local sells & resellers who come by, covid is still making it very difficult in this region to sell batiks.
Ibu Rasminah style is unique for the Northcoast working in a dark sogan brown with repeating, abstract motifs. A rough line, but very effective patterns that pop from the cotton.
She wanted to pose with me with every motif she had available and she wanted me to send them to her. Luckily her granddaughter later come in with whom I exchanged WA. After every photo Ibu Rasminah wanted to check them, so cute.
While Ibu Rasminah was a long time alone in producing her batik, we learned now that her daughter took up the canting too. With 52 years old not the newest generation, but very relieved the designs are being passed on. Haven’t met Ibu Sri Hartati yet, the batikmaking daughter, but bought two batiks made by her while the others are by her mother. We waved goodbye, wishing we will meet and laugh again next year.

Checking out Ibu Rasminah stock

Laughs with Ibu Rasminah

After Ibu Rasminah, I revisited Mak Si’Um. I wanted to revisited more pembatiks to discuss the exhibition further, but some of them were sick… Luckily they recovered fast, but could not see them this time. 
So finding Mak Si’Um in good health and working hard as ever was comforting. As always, the whole family was within minutes after my arriving at the house too. They had practical questions, mostly about the wish for Mak Si’Um to attend the opening and how she would get to Jakarta. It was good we could talk it through and they proudly showed Mak Si’Um was already working on new stock for next year.

Mak Si'Um hard at work

Finished jungle themed Batik by Ibu Rasminah

Posing with part of the family

We visit a maker I had not been to before too, Ibu Rujaimah in the desa Masin. The style described as typical for the region is very colourful, full of flowers & birds with much detail. A mixture between the style of Pekalongan from the past and Batang from the present. The granddaughter  Mbak Salmah does the business side of things and we talked about how her nenek’s design were recently copied by another maker in the region that I know well… Seeing now the orginals, the quality is much better, because of course it is the original… The copying of the batik in batik was not the worse, I was told, the designs got also copied in print…So till now the batiks being more visible online through different organizations and events is not yet helping this maker...I advised the granddaughter to start up their own Insta since sells from here seem to work well for makers in the region. And she already did, so go follow here > 

Granddaughter Mbak Salmah, Nenek Ibu Rujaimah 
and Salmah's daughter together with Ibu Rujaimah Batik

Close up of Ibu Rujaimah Batik

Next to pembatiks, I got to meet a cantingmaker, Pak Jazi. Apparently last of 3 in the region and last time I met his student
Pak Jazi workshop is not more than a small hallway where he and his family produces cantings for Pekalongan, Batang & Cirebon. Up to 75 canting a day from the finest to the thickest sprout. He demostrated how to complete a canting. Within seconds he cut from bamboo the handle. Amazing to see the ease with which a true craftsman works, so much skill in those hands!
It was wonderful to see, but it also made me a little sad. Wish all parts of Batik craft were being celebrated more and not just the craft, the maker too!

Cantingmaker Pak Jazi

Pak Jazi's set up

Ready to go in the fire for the final melt

The next day, 16 November, was why I returned to Pekalongan, to film Ibu Widianti of Oey Soe Tjoen. I was really nervous, because I went by myself, but it went really well, I think. I am so happy I could interview her for next years exhibition. Talking on and off camera, provided new insights and her views on Batik are actually very similar to mine. The future of Batik might not look bright, but I still believe all this passion I see in Ibu Widianti and the others I met this journey could bring Batik to future generations.

New Batik by Ibu Widianti with the original book

Ibu Widianti after the interview

Another detail from the new batik by Ibu Widianti


Talking about that, I got connected with some in Pekalongan. A new generation who started exploring real batik coming from families who make printed textiles & ‘dusters’ (a kind of nightgown worn by most women on Java at home). An exciting development I am totally here for! 
The first I met was at Museum Batik. The exhibition was ready showing new batiks from the collection. After looking around batik teacher Mas Roman asked my thoughts on it. I told him there were two pieces that really caught my eye. Two batiks in a classic Buketan design yet the use of colour and graphic background made it very now. 
A few moment later I was surprised by a visit from the maker, or better producer, of the batiks, Mas Falahy. It was great to hear from him directly his motivation for these batiks and to dive into batik. Coming from a printers family, Batik was not made before in their workshop, but now they produce Batik Tulis. What an inspiring step & so good Museum Batik supports these efforts!

Overview of the latest exhibition at Museum Batik in Pekalongan

Batiks designed by Mas Falahy

With Mas Falahy

Another one I met reached out through Insta when I was in Pekalongan before. However we didn’t manage to meet. So I contacted her when I got back.  
I met with Miss Mila and her mother of Molafi on 17 November. Miss Mila already expressed that she was a big fan of my work, but I did not realize her batik journey was sparked because of my journey to batik. Her mother was telling about how my insta made her daughter want to work with batik, and not just work with it, study it. That she actually started this semester at the university to study Batik. I feel so honoured! 
Miss Mila comes from a family who sells ‘dusters’, a big industry on Java. Her mother and grandmother sold them from the old Dutch house in the city center. Now Miss Mila wish is to turn this dusters shop into a brand using real batik! She gifted me one of the first products she made & her mother insisted on giving me a duster, which I will gladly wear at home! So nice to meet Miss Mila and her family, looking forward to follow her batik adventure!

Miss Mila, her mother and brother posing together while the sister makes the photo

It was good to return to Pekalongan, got to  see and meet the people I couldn’t last time, revisit the pembatiks, and people at the museum. Which is always so funny, because I walk in and it is just “Hello miss Sabine” as if I was there yesterday. I feel so senang, so welcomed and want to say thank you Mas Dewa, Mas Qomar, Ibu Nur and Mas Roman for this! 

* posting this while waiting I Dubai for my last flight back home

Pekalongan & Batang have numerous gates decorated with cantings, 
but most regions have actually no pembatiks/batikworkshops anymore

November 14, 2022

Ubud, Sumber Salak, Ungaran and Kaliwungu

At Sumber Salak in Jember

Ex-vulcona Ungaran

My short holiday in Bali didn’t really happen since my friend was really sick. Although I only saw Ubud & Tanah Lot, it was nice to meet this totally different culture in Indonesia; the many Balinese offerings, parades of nicely dressed people on their way to temples, ricefield with little shrines for Dewi Sri and sooo many half naked, burned tourists.I walked a couple of times the route ‘Bukit Campuhan’, a trail leading into Ubud city center to do grocery shopping. It was nice, and scary, to see insects & animals like ‘Kaki Seribu’ (duizendpoot/centipede) that I know so well as a batikmotif on the path. 
On one of the trips to get traintickets & cash for further traveling, I decided to head to the shop of Threads of Life. Their small shop in the center of Ubud displays Batik, Ikat and more in a stylish way. Inside I informed on the workshops. I first thought to just do the one morning workshop learning Batik & Indigo, but asked if I could still join the two days workshop on Natural dye the next day. “No problem”, the ladies in the store said, “just go to this address”.
So the next morning made my way through the ricefields, and the biggest flock of herons I ever saw blocking the road & hanging out in the trees, to the location. The place is really pretty, a small dye garden with a big covered outside space to do the workshops. 
We got a lot of information first. The team is so wonderful. Explaining in detail how to prepare the textiles and make the Indigo dyebath. Of course we also did all the steps ourselves. In the afternoon we got to dip our cloths in the Indigo vats. We even got to do some batik. I freestyled some local inspiration like the swallows I saw every morning and Balinese dancers. 
The second day we got to learn about dyeing black, yellow and brown. Our little group was already so much fun, funny how fast you bond, especially with the amount of washing our teacher made us do. The black was created by repeating a proces of tanning, dye and mordant. The dye is from mud from ricefields. To get the cloth dark black I repeated it about 10 times, maybe more, but it is very rewarding to see it change from “sheba cat” grey to black. We also painted with the mud, I based mine on the ‘Bukit Campuhan’ and the centipede I saw.
Wonderful to learn some more about natural dye and to be creative myself for a moment. 

Dyeing Indigo at Threads of Life

My batiks dyed with Indigo hanging to dry after boiling out the wax

The colour baths

My piece dyed in cokelat (brown), kuning (yellow) and hitam (black)

Outside in the sun before the rain started

Writing this part in the train to Semarang, next to a loud calling man... I am half way through this journey, left in the morning from Jember. I didn’t want to fly back to Java from Bali. It would take two planes to get to Semarang. So I ended up taking travel, a car for 7 people to Jember, which was a whole new adventure including a part by boat and dinner at 1am. Now I am traveling by train to Semarang. First to Surabaya where I shared a grab to the station and had lunch together with a fellow traveller. 

Old translation Sumber Salak in Jember 

In Jember I spend one day to explore part of a Batikhistory I have been uncovering since last year.
Last Summer I saw the batiks made by Mary Herrmann for the first time, I knew them before and was fascinated by the story and portrait of her kept in the Tropenmuseum collection too. I realized the one who donated the batiks seem to have more to share and luckily I got in contact fast with granddaughter Mary.
So I went to Jember to visit the region Mary, the batikmaker, grew up and meet with a local batikmaker Mbak Endang who joined me on my adventure. 
In one of the Batiks Mary made is a detailed drawing of the plantation run by her father. A plantation with according to the family cassava & Indigo. Mary’s batiks are all blue and said to be made at the batikworkshop that was at the plantation. In advertisements in which the father tries to sell the plantation for many years a local station is mentioned being very close by. So we started there. The station ‘Sumber Salak’ is no longer active and is no more than a small platform. Don’t know if it was bigger in the past, but it was great to visit, especially since Mary made a batik with a scene in it about catching a train too. 
We explored the region nearby the trainstation. Asked around, but nobody (yet) seemed the know about a old plantation or old (Dutch) buildings. Although part of the buildings must have been from stone, buildings in the area made with woven bamboo seem to be similar to that on Mary’s Batik. Next time I have to prepare an exact location search on old maps, my visit here was pretty spontaneous…
The region is full with a mixed growth of coffee, sugarcane, jati, papayas, coconut and rice. No cassave or Indigo, but I did see cassave later when I went to Kaliwungu.
Trying to find a higher spot to see if we could compare the mountains Mary draw in her batik to the ones seen from Sumber Salak, we reached a sign saying 'Zona erupsi'. Apparently the volcano was/is active and we would enter the danger zone if we would go up further. The driver and Mbak Endang were discussing to do this. Although super symbolic considering my research on Von Franquemont and how Mary come on my path through this actually, I said we should not go further up. Better next time, when it is safe. But did asked if we could go to another hill or mountain to get a view of the mountains in the region. 
We headed to another high spot close by. Two natural green hills, Gunung Sepikul, that honestly look like two breast coming from the ground, provided a very beautiful ‘pemandangan’ {view}. 
If we saw what Mary saw not sure. Wonder if she climb on a rock herself to get the view or it is actually from a photo or drawing…
We headed to another high view that I visited in 2016. I got really bad news that day I was there and the person who accompanied me turned out to be really bad…Sooo I was happy to revisit this place, this beautiful region, and make new memories here. Drank hot chocolate milk while thinking about this. Cannot believe it has been 6 years, how we miss you David!

Traditional bamboo house in Sumber Salak

Mbak Endang at Gunung Sepikul in Jember 

The afternoon I got to visit Mbak Edang’s home and see her batik designs. She has been making batik since 2019. Inspiration comes from local traditions, Indonesian culture and even the Netherlands which she visited too. Next to making batik, she has a blog 'My Life Journey', inspired by me, she says. So fun to meet this batikmaker in person and have a spontaneous batik adventure together! Looking forward to returning here and explore further!

Batiks made by Mbak Endang

Writing this next part in Pekalongan. Arrived here by train from Semarang this afternoon, a short trip after many epic ones...
So after my one day in Jember, I headed to Semarang. Main plan was to visit my friend Aris. 
First time I met Aris was in 2009 when he was one of the young artists living in Rumah Seni, the place I stayed in when I was trying to find batik on my first ‘journey to Batik’. We met every time I visited, but now a lot had happened in between. Aris got married, has a son and build a home, in Ungaran! The place we visited together in 2019 and my research focus is on because of Von Franquemont. So perfect to combine some exploring with catching up.
Spend a large part of my stay in Ungaran staring at Gunung Ungaran. I did not know this would be my view when I booked the guesthouse, two others were full and this one is pretty new. It was a surprise waking up the first morning and looking out of my window. I now totally understood C├ęzanne and his obsession with Montagne Sainte-Victoire.
While he only painted/draw his mountain 30 times, I think I photographed and filmed it in 3 days way more. See my appreciation post on Instagram.
This ex-volcano has quite a reputation ~ mistakingly being seen as the one who swept away batikentrepreneur Carolina Josephina von Franquemont, while actually she passed away after a long sickbed.
If she did have a batikworkshop on the foot or slope of this mountain, or just worked by herself making the few batiks her family donated, is still something I am trying to figure out. So spending a weekend in Ungaran, staring at this mountain was wonderful while following her families footsteps in the region.

Gedung Kuning in Ungaran

Building from 1910 in the same street in Ungaran

Me and Aris drove around in Ungaran on Saturday, visiting places that were graveyards in the past. A long shot, but couldn’t resist reaching out to Mas Adnan Rusdi for specific locations and hoping.
Got three spots marked on Google maps, that all turned out to be nothing while also not being nothing at the same time. While the graves had all disappeared, a few only recently apparently, we saw some interesting old, European buildings, revisited a couple of places and just had fun. I am lucky that I have in this part of the world friends who just want to drive me to a spot on a map I marked while I don’t even know why! 

The last remaining building of the sugar factory Kaliwoengoe on police property;
 the 'waterpomphuis', with in the background the main building and guesthouse

View from the guesthouse on the 'waterpomphuis' and 'smederij', the factory would have been behind and next to the smederij

Guesthouse from the front, build after 1910 in Kaliwungu

Mas Ruwanto sharing his data while explaining where is what and when

The next day I returned to Kaliwungu. This time in the great company of local researcher, might I say expert in Kendal history, Mas Ruwanto Tri, short Mas Iwan. We met online during the pandemic after Mas Iwan reached out after reading my blog about my visit to the sugarfactory Kaliwoengoe, or what is left of it, that was once owned by the sister of Von Franquemont
After my visit, construction started on the grounds that is owned by the police. Several building were build and old ones demolished. Mas Iwan was following the construction on side closely, sending me videos and photos through WA. Both worried that little that was left would be demolished too, we made a joined letter to the police asking them to keep the left over buildings in tact. Explaining their historical importance of no less then two centuries in which colonial rule, war, occupation and Revolusi all left there mark here. 
We still hope we can get the building officially protected, but since it is police owned this seem to be very difficult and we don’t know if we will be on time to do so (tips/advice/help is welcome!).
So returning to my visit, first I was really happy to see “our” buildings still there, and not looking worse. The growth around it is removed and maintained, so nature is no longer taken over these fragile constructions. 
Mas Iwan arranged for a permit for us to walk around and take photos, wowww! We even got escorted by a police officer, who gladly took photos of us in front of all the buildings. 
It was so great to be here with the expert; understanding how the buildings changed, some were renovated 3 times, which old photos were taken from which angles and where the factory actually was. To my surprise not on the empty field, but across the street. One building survived there too, the ‘smederij’. The building functioned later as a cinema in Mas Iwan’s youth, but is now empty.
It was so good to revisit and really have to put work in when I get home to see how we can turn the “waterpomphuis” in a small exhibition space to share this local history. That would be so fantastic!

Batik Fashionshow in Kendal

Mas Iwan not only arranged this amazing visit, he also made a Batik program for me. He asked around to see if we could visit local batikworkshops. He has been researching local batikhistory; tracing newspaper articles and reaching out to the familymembers. Currently there are no old workshops active, but new batik is being made. 
There was a small festival in Kendal where we saw a short part of a ‘Batik fashionshow’ with most contenders wearing printed textiles and visited the one batik stand. Bought two batiks, one kombinasi with all kind of local Kendalium (or Kendaalse?) reference and one with cap with the symbol of Kendal and a pattern of rice. Little did I know we would actually visit the maker. 

Mas Roni of Batik Linggo at work

Batik with prison design made in natural dye

After a beautiful drive through the region, heading towards Mount Ungaran, we reached Batik Linggo. 
Batik Linggo is run by Mas Roni who started it up 11 years ago, but has been active within batik 25 years. His main focus is education, so he gives workshops to local schools and people can follow a two day course learning Batik Tulis, Cap and natural dye. To my surprise Mas Roni knew me already. He saw my temporary carpet of natural dye at Museum Batik in Pekalongan. He showed us the batiks he made with natural dye with interesting motifs based on nature and even a prison.
Really hope to return here and do a workshop. The view from his place is fantastic!

Me & Mas Ruwanto Tri in front of the 'waterpomphuis'

Feel so lucky Mas Ruwanto organised all this. I know he is very busy and it means the world to me he makes time to spend the day with me and then I get so much more. So thank you Mas Iwan!

Next couple of days I am in Pekalongan, my last two weeks on Java before ‘pulang’, returning home.