September 24, 2022

Holding Batik closer to our heart

Presenting 'Demystifying Batik Belanda' at ACM in Singapore
Photo by Rossman Ithnain

Me in Utama pants by Baju by Oniatta in front of Utama pants 
in the exhibition 'Batik Kita' taken by the designer herself Oniatta Effendi

In the bus to Kuala Lumpur while writing this. The last few days or actually the last few months flew by. So a post reflecting on before my travels and this last week, depending how far we get during this busride.
After my trips to Vienna & Edinburgh, I stayed in the Netherlands, being busy with Batik, as always, I am so lucky I can truly call this my main job. 

At the end of June I was part of a symposium/workshop at the University Utrecht, first time and was surprised my paper got selected. The full program ‘Tapestry of Rules: Institutions and Cloth Industries in Global Comparative Perspective, 1750-2000’ mostly dove into the economic part of textile trade & production. Mainly graphs and numbers filled the slides. I was the only ‘artist’ on the program and my slides were all filled with images. Presented the zone ‘Fabric(s) of Leiden’ I created for Things That Talk on the Leidse cotton-printing company Leidsche Katoenmaatschappij. The feedback was really great, “you get to see the actual textiles”and everyone said that my photos were wonderful. So although this event wasn't strictly my field, my talk was welcomed with open arms. There were some great speakers & hope I can be part of this program by Textilelab in the near future again.

Paper Sarong workshop at MUZEE, looking together at the end results
Photo by Muzee Scheveningen/Sarah van Soldt

July was mostly filled with meet-up, preparing for Tong Tong Fair and meeting everyone before my filled August and being away in September. 
In August I gave three workshops, one Batik workshop at the beautiful Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort and two workshops for the 15 August 1945 commemoration. Honoured to be asked to make a creative output for this, both in the form of a DIY and two workshops. I worked out the Paper Sarong concept I already did before, were people work together to make patterns, focussing more on the stories and don’t need to struggle with the difficult technique of Batik. 
The first I gave was at the cute museum MUZEE, 10 minutes from the sea in Scheveningen. It was a very hot day, but the workshop was still fully booked. After my introductions people started with trying out the oilpastel & watercolour on paper, before forming groups to make the sarong. Such nice pieces were made and more lovely, so many stories were shared. 
I gave the workshop again on 15 August at National Theater in Den Haag/The Hague, a bit more nervous, since the day is a heavy one for many. But the participants were really happy having this alternative, creating way to commemorate that day and it was such a lovely experience.

Paper Sarong workshop at Nationaal Theater, reflecting on the work will still painting

From 1 till 11 September the Tong Tong Fair was finally taking place again in Den Haag/The Hague. After May 2019, we were planned to be back with our Batik Stand; me, Romée Mulder and Myrthe Groot of Guave. But it was postponed 3 times. 
The concept of our Batik Stand was the same, only it would be bigger, better and more prominent. Our Batik Island as it was called by the organization was the first thing you see when entering! We couldn’t be more prominent. It was such a surprise, a dream come true. The main reason for organizing the Batik Stand was to bring real Batik back, to give it a stage again, and back it was!
The Batik Island was made up as half a circle, designed by Sabrina Luthjens with on the outside the exhibition ‘Batik makes the man’ which I curated together with Florine Koning after the concept of Leslie Boon. In the exhibition the development of batik worn by men from sarong to pants, and from pants to shirt was shown. With the question, or statement “The batik sleeping pants was an Indo-European invention worn strictly at home”, I started researching. I soon found out the Batik pants could be also found outside of the house, worn by European men while going on a picknick or at work. I also started finding photos of other local men wearing the pants. The pandemic time I spend going through archives and whenever I spotted a patterned trouser on a black and white photo I would save it. 
At the Tong Tong Fair we shared the first findings. What other questions they raise and that still need to be explored. But very happy that we could share this new perspective, or wider perspective on this history.
The open structure of the exhibition made people walk right in our shop, small expo on what Batik is and I had a chest with many batikbooks. We were there daily from 10am till 10pm. Almost every day we had a special guest like batikmaker, researcher, recently graduated students working with batik and even a chef. People could come to me with Batik they owned for consultation and bring a clothing item to the upcycle atelier by Guave. Both were used a lot, I saw so many lovely batiks and I will follow up for sure soon after my travels. Guave got more items to add Batik on then they had time for to do, amazing that we can bring this subtitle sustainable way of thinking about clothing in such a nice form. Also have to add credits to Ayla Pijman here to, the new member of Guave, who spend hours putting patches over stains and holes and adding pockets to often Fast Fashion items. 
I want to thank everyone who dropped by, for asking about Batik, browsing the books, make me sell out of my batik stock (amazing!), brought there precious batiks, the special guest; Sandra Niessen, Dido Michielsen, Yulia Pattopang, Pris Roos, Shuen-Li Spirit, Suzanne Liem/Batik Patron Ambarawa, Laurens Tan, Arlene Dwiasti, Maureen Tan and thank you to my dream team, the Guave ladies, up to the next adventure!

Your Batik Island hosts; me, Alya, Myrthe & Romée

Batik Consultation in the Batik Stand 
Amazing how many people used this service, thinking of doing it again in a separate event

Right after Tong Tong Fair, I was heading to Singapore. Feeling overwhelmed and unprepared I manage still to get everything done as good as I could, since my talks would be right after I arrived on Friday in the weekend. 
Was invited by Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) to give a talk as a continuation of getting my research ‘Re-telling the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik’ out there. After my talk for the Facebook group ‘Batik Sayang’, I was lucky enough to share part of my research in Vienna & Edinburgh already. 
* People asking me where to read more of my research, or watch related talks. Please feel free to contact me & I can send previous articles by email to you. More articles are coming out/up, so I keep you updates on that too.

Presenting 'Demystifying Batik Belanda' at ACM in Singapore
Photo by Rossman Ithnain

Coastal batiks / Pesisiran in 'Batik Kita' at ACM

'Batik Kita' at ACM with view on Batik from Cirebon

After a direct flight, I arrived in the early evening. The next day was my talk at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore. I went a little earlier so I could see the exhibition ‘Batik Kita’, were my talk ‘Demystifying Batik Belanda' was part of. After seeing briefly the wonderful museum, I headed toward the basement to give my talk. A little nervous at first, but so glad with all the familiar faces that turned up, I share some of the finding from my recent research ‘Re-telling the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik’. After my talk there was some time for questions, and there were so many, so great and diverse. Someone asked if I used a computer program to make my matches of batiks on wearers. If someone invented it, please let me know. But I had to explains it is just hours going through digitale databases. Someone asked about how to recognized if a Batik has been worn and many questions on how we should deal with other mistakes that might be in Batik literature. Very happy to meet the new generation that is ready to dive into this history too. 

'Kawan Kita' at Galeri Toko Kita with host Tony Sugiarta

On Sunday I was the guest at Galeri Toko Kita to talk among Batik friends in the Kawan Kita talk series organised by Oniatta Effendi & Tony Sugiarta by aNERDgallery. In the beautiful shop, which is a truly a love letter to Batik, I got to tell more behind the scenes/screens on my journey to Batik. We got so wrapped up in a discussion on Fake Batik and why we all love Batik, I didn’t even share all my slides. I also finally got to shop a Baju by Oniatta piece, my own pair of Utama pants. Which I wore right away to ACM again on Wednesday when I got to see ‘Batik Kita’ and the rest of the museum. 
It was great to have two such different presentations, and so wonderful that people came to both. Feeling like am welcomed by a new Batik family here, I feel so lucky and honoured. Thank you al for coming, supporting my journey and for loving Batik. As Oniatta says it perfectly: “Jauh Dikenang Dekat Disayang. Holding batik closer to our hearts.”

Showing my Batik relate Art works during 'Kawan Kita' at Galeri Toko Kita

After the weekend filled with talks, I was lucky to spend the other days meeting friends, being a tourist and trying out all local foods. Singapore is really amazing, all the colourful houses, had to photograph every single one. The murals in the Chinese neighborhood to explain its history. The Museums, just saw the National Gallery and ACM collection, but they are already so good. Cannot wait to return and visit the others. 
How lucky I am being guided around this interesting city ~ Monday started of with a visit to the National Gallery together with Tony. I went a little earlier and found myself in the rooms showing works from the collection in a decolonized space. First display I saw was on Batik and the influence Dutch colonial rule had on it. Next room had several paintings by Raden Saleh. Being eye to eye with the tigers that in the past were eye to eye with our royal family! Another stunning piece of horseman, made me think of a bamboo hat I got to see from the Tropenmuseum collection to write a blogpost for Modemuze. Wonder the hat in the collection can actually be a noblemen hat…

Painting 'Six Horsemen Chasing Deer' by Raden Saleh from 1860
At National Gallery Singapore

Raden Sarah's 'Boschbrand (Forest Fire)' from 1849
At National Gallery Singapore

The exhibition I had to see was on Aboriginal Art, ‘Ever Present: First people Art of Australia’. I knew it included Batiks from Batik Utopia, but it had also paintings and batik by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, such an inspiration (see previous blogpost 'London Baby'). A great show, a must visit if you can. It shows the development of Aboriginal Art in 4 spaces, from early acrylic painting to more political statement pieces. 
On Monday evening Eunice organised an amazing dinner to meet Batik friends with amazing Indian food.

Detail of Batik by Emily Kame Kngwarreye
in the exhibition ‘Ever Present: First people Art of Australia'
At National Gallery Singapore

Batik on cloth 'Mother and Child' by Chuah Then Teng, c. 1950s,
At National Gallery Singapore

Tuesday I got a tour of city by the perfect tourguide Eeling. We met in Utrecht, when I gave her and Eunice a tour. Was so happy we got to spend the day to explore the Chinese, Indian & Peranakan Chinese neighborhood and all the yummy food that goes with it. Saw so many houses I would love to live in, so colourful and stunning. 

Mural in Chinese neighbourhood
Writing a letter to Koen 
Photo by Eeling Koh

Colourful houses of Singapore

On Wednesday I could join the tour with Oniatta through Batik Kita with nice stories by our tourguide Hafiz Rashid. The exhibition is stunning. The batiks are displayed in full length, 3 above each other. It made it a little hard to see details on the pieces on top, but it was very nice how the different styles/areas/times were shown three pieces at a time. Next to the full batiks, there was much room for batik fashion. A section showed wearers from Singapore, from the flight attendance uniforms in the past, to nowadays well known batik wearers. The other ‘stages’ showed different designers, which included the Utama pants by Oniatta. So great to own & wear a piece that is on display! 
There is a catalog in the making, so keep you posted when it is out!

Next to Batik Kita, got invited to lunch by Jackie Yoong and she showed me the Fashion and Textiles space at ACM ~ A recently acquired 18th century English traditional dress made from painted cotton from India was the highlight in the room, next to sarong from three generations of the Nio family paired with kebaya ~  of which one was from the former Museum Nusantara collection. 
After lunch I walked around ACM again to see the Batik Besurek in the Islamic Art. I used this object in my talk since it is actually an imitation, most likely made in the Netherlands. It therefor is a real ‘Batik Belanda’ { > read/hear more about how Batik Belanda was the local name on Java for imitations from Europe in the 19th & 20th century in this story/YouTube video/instagram post}
We bumped into Chor Lin Lee, curator of Batik Kita at ACM, who was the one inviting me for the talk ~ happy I could finally meet Chor Lin in person, the author of the first Batik book I bought and cannot wait for the next one.

Thursday I got to meet textile collector, curator and writer Peter Lee. It is so amazing to meet so many people during this trip that I admired from afar for so long. Got to see some extraordinary pieces from Peter’s collection and an open invite to browse through more when I return to Singapore.  

Will return to Singapore for sure, still many people to meet & many to revisit. 
Thank you all for the warm welcome & looking forward seeing you online, 
in person or somewhere in the world!

Colourful house in Little India
in Singapore