November 14, 2022

Ubud, Sumber Salak, Ungaran and Kaliwungu

At Sumber Salak in Jember

Ex-vulcano 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.

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