October 31, 2023

Fashion, Malls and Friends

European/Chinese lace kebaya and Little Red Ridng Hood
Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse
Photo by me

In between building up the exhibition 'Masa depan Batik | Future of Batik', I got to do a lot of Jakarta things, things I almost only do in Jakarta like hanging out in malls and going to fashionshows. It is not my favourite thing in the world, specifically the malls, but it is the best thing to do when you want to hang out with people in Jakarta.
I was lucky got to hang out my first weekend with Stefanie Patricia. Have know her online for a while now, and she reach out a few days before I went if I could bring a book. Could get the book to still fit, so my first meeting was with her in a mall. Together with some family that was also in town we shared a meal. The next day, Stefanie kindly arranged for me to meet with fashiondesigner Auguste Soesastro. His recent exhibition showing 15th years of work was a huge succes. 

KRATON is Auguste Soesastro's Fashion House established in 2008.
Kraton emerges to promote the best aspects of Indonesian arts and cultures to the international
fashion world, to ensure the survival of Indonesian unique heritage for future generations.

Auguste not only gets inspirations from Indonesian Arts and culture, he also comes from a long line of batikmakers on both sides of his family. It was so odd that I already looked into one of these makers because of a piece still owned by a family in the Netherlands, but couldn't find much about them. How wonderful Stefanie introduced me. I am looking forward to find more signed pieces for him when I return home. An exciting part of batik history to uncover!

On Tuesday morning I was invited to Museum Tekstil. The talkshow with the title ‘Masa depan artisan Batik’ was suppose to feature me as a speaker, but because of wrong scheduling I had to decline. I made it after all, and could still invite the audience to come to the exhibition. They even played the short video of the pembatiks introducing themselves, which was really nice!
The talkshow itself wasn’t great. I am always missing the voice of the pembatiks, the makers. There was talk about AI, about machines making Batik Tulis, about the Batik masters, who have already passed away or are the last generation. It is like we are stuck in the past and can only fantasize about a very distant futuristic future. Not a practical close by one, in which we address the issues at hand, such as sustainability in the making process, making sure makers have a clean, safe and good payed job, so a new generation would consider to continue making. 
Only when the audience started discussing the urgency to protect handmade batik ~ because robots are not making handmade batik ~ it got a lot of agreement of the panel and applause. 

Jakarta Muslim Fashion Week

John Ang and me otw to the Fashionshow

On the 19th John Ang arrived in Jakarta. It was soooo nice to hang out, although my schedule didn’t leave much room for that. We went to two fashionshows. The first one, new to me, the Jakarta Muslim Fashionweek. The second, on 24 October at the Jakarta Fashionweek, was the show ‘Pada suatu hari’ by BINhouse in collab with Auguste Soesastro. It was so kind of him to give me an invite, and what a show it was. It was so much fun, and sexy and even emotional. The looks were amazing, going from very classic sarong kebaya to very modern, but always with a unique twist in either colour, collar or combination. The whole ‘love to love you baby’ runway was a pure gift. I loved it so much, it was so edgy. Auguste’s part was much more chique, the models walking on this sad goodbye song. There were several looks I liked right away, not surprisingly worn by my favorite model from JFW in 2016! 

Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse
Photo by me

Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse at JFW
Photo by me

Auguste Soesastro in collab with BINhouse at JFW
Photo by me

Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse at JFW
Photo by me

Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse at JFW
Photo by me

Next to hanging out with John Ang, got to meet two other textile enthousiast, researcher, even batik activists you might say. Got to visit Asmoro Damais and Caecilia Adinoto. 

Asmoro Damais is the daughter of a French historian and a Javanese mother, Asmoro was brought up in a household deeply involved with culture. After spending some years in Europe where she attended various art and language classes, Asmoro returned to Jakarta and began to work as a designer for shoes and handicrafts.  Meanwhile, her older brother Adji, was collecting artifacts and experimenting with developing Pekalongan batik. Since Asmoro showed an obvious interest in old batik, Adji’s suppliers began to bring her their old batiks.  This was the beginning of Asmoro’s journey through the history of batik

 Having several books at home by her, it was so wonderful to finally meet. I hope I can return again, since I hope to dive into the kebaya with her and her son. But it was now already great, sitting in this beautiful place surrounded by plants and artifacts. 

Ibu Asmoro and me

Ibu Caecilia was at my opening, and I was so happy to see her there after knowing each other through instagram, zooms and DM’s. Caecilia invited me to her home to see some of her collection. I was surprised by so many wonderful pieces, and of each Caecilia easily recalls why she got it, and the interesting story they tell. She not only collected old pieces, but also newer, making her a true batik warrior. It is so lovely to get to spend time with people who love batik like I do and want to share time with me! Such a gift and cannot wait for your Batik book Caecilia!

Opening of the I Love Wastra Bazaar
Photo by me

White lace kebaya from Wayang Sakti 

On Thursday 26 Oktober started my morning at the Bazaar Indonesia for the opening of the ‘I love Wastra Bazaar’ {Who can hook me up with a t-shirt of the event, it is so good!}. Several familiar textile promotors were there, so nice to not only great Ibu Liesna of Galerie Liesna, but also run into Stefanie of Wayang Sakti and Pak Agus of Batik Tiga Puteri. To my surprise he already visited my exhibition and told me he loved it, yes! 
At Stefanie’s booth I tried several white kebaya’s. For the Batik Carnival in Pekalongan the dresscode was white top, batik below. Not having anything white, I saw it as a good reason to get one, also with me & Dido’s project in mind (Read more here about The meaning of the white kebaya & our project). I went for a long, lace version. Not European, not very Chinese either, somewhere in between. Still feel weird wearing it though... 
Liesna had her new collection Kebaya Jeng Sri at her booth. Love her designed fabrics made from paintings she did. 
This week we start our Erasmus Huis | Esmod Jakarta collab. Her students picked out Batiks during the pasar batik and will style looks with this. These looks will be finalized and modelled on 8 November in the exhibition space at Erasmus Huis. 

Liesna's latest collection Kebaya Jeng Sri 
Photo by me

Kebaya from Kebaya Jeng Sri collection
Photo by me

In the afternoon I headed to the screening of two films by Wulan Putri of Perempuan Berkabar at Gudskul. We got introduced to each other years ago by Krisna Murti. For us both an inspiration in our work, who is truly missed in the creative world. I contacted Wulan if she had any tips who could document my openingsweekend, to my big surprise, she wanted to do it! 
I am saving the footage of this for a later moment!
Wulan was screening on the 26th two short documentaries, Mama Lihat Awan Jatuh and Salmiyah at the Gudskul

Screening of Salmiyah at Gudskul
Photo by me

Salmiyah (2020) explores pieces of memory, perceptions of historical actors, historical enthusiasts and audiences. The past, always leave questions, it can never return in its full scenes. People contend to rebuild it. Salmiyah is an effort to depict the complexity of history which is always full of bias and distance.



Such great projects and stunning videos, we need to bring these to the Netherland! I was happy got to see them on a big screen and chatting a little bit more with Wulan about our work, about Krisna Murti, who we miss, the crazy world we live in and our activists souls that cannot always say what we want. It is great we finally got to meet in person and hope we can work on more in the near future!

Thank you Jakarta, I am back again and hope it will be again such great days, maybe a little bit more relax, but probably not

Fashionshow 'Pada suatu hari' by BINhouse at JFW
Photo by me

Pasar Batik & Batik Research Workshop at Erasmus Huis

Ibu Siti's daughter posing in the library of Erasmus Huis
with the book 'Batik drawn in wax'
 by Dutch former textile conservator Itie van Hout about the Tropenmuseum batik collection, 
now Wereldmuseum Amsterdam
Photo by Ibu Siti

Anna Silooy and me during the Batik Research Workshop
Photo by Ardita of Erasmus Huis

First time in a train that honks non stop, not sure it is because I am in the front that I hear it better or just an overactive conductor. Anyway I will blame my typos on this. My short weekend escape to Pekalongan and Batang gave me some room to gather my thoughts.  It is like I cannot land in Jakarta, everything feels unreal and with the amazing openingsweekend I needed some space to give it a place. My heart is still full and reading all the positive responses and seeing all the creative social media posts made in the exhibition just makes me so happy and proud.

Mak Sium packing in the sold items
Photo by me

Ibu Siti made smaller Batik artworks for the Pasar Batik
the natural dye process is long and in this size it is easier to experiment with colours 
while being mother of two young children. 
Photo by me

Ibu Ramini of KUB Srikandi showing her batiks
Photo by Mas Karim

On Sunday 22 October, last week, we held a Pasar Batik at Erasmus Huis with the pembatiks who are showcased in the exhibition ‘Masa depan Batik | Future of Batik’; Ibu Ramini of KUB Srikandi, Mbak Eka of Batik Lumintu, Ibu Siti, Mbak Nurul of Batik Tulis Batang and Mak Sium. What is better than being able to buy art from the artists directly!! To have enough stock they started producing a year ago and I am very thankful all batik fans, friends and collectors showed up to shop. Also many of the Dutch embassy took this opportunity to get some wonderful handmade pieces. I gave little tours in the exhibition and every time I walked back I saw at every stall batiks being unfolded and bought. Of course couldn’t resist buying some batiks myself. Most I will bring to Singapore for my small pop-up event at aNERDgallery ‘Oh, That Batik Bolk, a weekend with Sabine Bolk’ from 10 till 12 November. Love this title! Hope to see everyone in Singapore there!

Mak Sium poses at the booth of Batik Lumintu with Mbak Eka and Miss Tasya
Photo by Mas Karim

Me and Jennifer of The AriaBatik
 checking out the wonderful pieces by Mak Sium
Photo by Mas Karim

Next to shopping Batik at the Pasar Batik, we had a booth by Kesengsem Lasem selling their fashion items like bucket hats and jackets. The Sore Santai Market provided booths with snacks, drinks and more shopping fun. I tried some boterkoek, which is actually a dutch thing and got a lovely present from Kalimantan from Kain Dadi.
Next to shopping, we had a fashionshow. The newly made streetwear collection ‘Jagad Phoenix’ by Kabari was brought to the runway. The models were mostly of the Dutch embassy, thanks to Anna Silooy of Erasmus Huis and did a great job modelling the batik looks, cheered on by their collegues. It was so much fun and a nice moment to show how fun, modern and new Batik can be. Thank Ibu Yullia for helping me organise it!

Fashionshow 'Jagad Phoenix' by Kabari from Rembang
Photo by Ardita of Erasmus Huis

Everyone taking a picture at the end of the fashionshow 'Jagad Phoenix'
Photo by me

After the Pasar Batik the pembatiks and their family from Batang returned home. At 4am the group from Lasem returned home. Weaving them out teary-eyed, what a weekend and what a great way of getting to celebrate my 14 year journey. Just wauw!
That evening I had one more opening program to do. Next to the exhibition and pasar, my work in research had to be included of course.
As part of my project at Erasmus Huis, I wanted to include my research, but not just my published findings, more a place where you could actual work on Batik research yourself. Like a Batik Research Center that can hopefully continue and grow also after this exhibition. Specifically for those who want to know more about collections kept in the Netherlands, about Dutch scholars in the past and want to prepare for studying Batik in the Netherlands. 
For the library I brought together a collection of books on Batik and the close related topics such as the Dutch imitation batik. The books are in Dutch, English and Indonesian and are partly by Dutch scholars and on Dutch collections. 

The books I got partly as donations, partly bought, 
that were added to the Erasmus Huis library

Mas Fairuzulhaq during our talk about Eliza van Zuylen
Photo by me

Next to the books, I was thinking about how to make the Dutch digital collections more accessible. There are great archives with Batik collection and information on Batik, but most are in Dutch, as in the system behind it. This makes it difficult to work with many of them for people who do not master the Dutch language. Because I work a lot with these databases and learned basically by doing, I thought it would be nice to put some tips and tricks into tutorials. At the moment this tutorials can only be accessed by using the QR codes in the library. I will make them available publicly on a later date. 

Teacher mode on during the Batik Research Workshop
Photo by Ardita of Erasmus Huis

Batik Research Workshop in the library of Erasmus Huis
Photo by Ardita of Erasmus Huis

So back to Monday 23 October, I gave a Batik Research Workshop. To our surprise fully booked in a very short time, so new one is coming up > 20 November, more info soon on the Erasmus Huis page.
Before the workshop started I had a short research session with Mas Fairuzulhaq. We have been chatting through messenger for a few months now, since he reached out to me about his plans to research batik entrepreneur Eliza van Zuylen and specifically how to identify a real Van Zuylen vs a later date imitation of her designs. This interesting research topic brings to light many difficulties. First, how to get information. The sources in Bahasa Indonesia are limited and mostly based on sources from Dutch authors (which sometimes write in English, but not always). These sources, books and articles, are if you are lucky only available in Jakarta. The library of Museum Batik in Pekalongan has a lot, but not so much as Museum Tekstil in Jakarta, but by far not as much as I can access in the Netherlands at for example the library of Wereldmuseum Leiden (former Museum Volkenkunde), or the University Library in Leiden, or the library of Textielmuseum in Tilburg. 
The second issue, what if what you are looking for is not mentioned in any of the books and need to do comparisons with actual batik pieces. You need access to either very good detail photos, but even better, the actual batiks. I think most original Eliza van Zuylen pieces are privately owned in Indonesia, the later imitations are what most museum collection have. So I told Mas Fairuzulhaq to reach out to collectors and asked them about their pieces. He got either no reply or a 'no thank you'. Although I insured him this was when I started the case too, and it unfortunately takes time before collectors and researchers want to share their collections and knowledge, it was really discouraging. For me personally him wanted to do this research as a student from Pekalongan is reason enough to help, but I also told him, This is part of the research. The fact that is is inaccessible, hard to get answers, is just as good part of the story as the solutions you hope to find. It is good and important to share which walls we try to climb or break down. Otherwise how can it be done?
I was glad I got to share some time with him in person, giving him some guidance on books to check out and of course he joined my workshop too.

Batik Research Workshop
Photo by Ardita of Erasmus Huis

Batik Research Workshop
Photo by me

In the workshop I used a more hands-on approach. With two exercises the database of the Wereldmuseum together with provided literature sources were used to find answers. It was also a way of sharing new findings and other sources that not yet made it into the database. So to think beyond what is put in the books and in the database. While I thought mostly students would join, I had curators from museums, collectors and just really big batik fans joining the workshop. Everyone worked so dedicated to find the answers. It was so great to share my research in this way and looking forward to doing this workshop again in Singapore on 11 November at aNERDgallery and on 20 November at Erasmus Huis in Jakarta.

Pak William with Ibu Siti and her family
Photo by me

October 27, 2023

Building the future of Batik

Group selfie right before the opening

Anna Silooy, Erasmus Huis, me and Lambert Grijns, Dutch ambassador
Almost it has become a tradition, writing while being in Jakarta traffic. Till now I made all my appointments, being late just a little, so that is not too bad. But very happy I get to escape this weekend and let all the impressions sink in a little bit. This past two weeks have been very stressful and a dream all wrapped up into one. Making an exhibition is always a lot of work and making it from abroad with 5 hours time difference gave me restless nights. But I did, we did it, and not just did it, it was finished a day before the opening! Apparently it never happened according to the technical team at Erasmus Huis.

So actually since 2021 this exhibition, Masa depan Batik | Future of Batik’ has been in the making. After I was invited by artist Shishani to join their amazing project ‘Shishani & Sisterhood’, Erasmus Huis reached out to do an online zoom on Batik. For the Jakarta Fashion week in 2021, me and two other speakers were invited to talk about Batik with the topic ‘Future of Batik’. Me and Erasmus Huis director Yolande Melsert came up with the title when talking about if batik could be sustainable. As a host we got Tony of aNERDgallery. I asked if we could get pembatiks involved, since I think we cannot talk about batik without including the makers. I got some budget to invite pembatiks to record a short statement and include subtitles. This was were the seed was planted for my current exhibition. The short statements by Ibu Ramini, Mbak Nurul, Ibu Widianti and Mbak Dwi were very divers, yet with the same passion and drive. Batik had to be part of the future, but how? Since there are so many difficulties. 
After the talk, I was invited by Erasmus Huis to make the exhibition. I was free to fill it as I wanted and me wanting to involve the pembatiks with their own work was welcomed completely.
The pandemic made it of course difficult to prepare anything until everything opened up again a little bit. So last year, 2022, I did most preparations, go talk with everyone, invite the pembatiks to make new work and interview them. I spend two months traveling around, meeting and re-meeting. The report blogs you can read back >> here 
The last couple of months have been filled with planning, organizing {not just getting me there, but also the 6 pembatiks and their family for the opening}, finishing works and editing videos, while still having much to do in the Netherlands also. 
I had some moments of panic, but I was also happy to know that in Indonesia even if things are very last minute, it can still be done. Where in Europe we need much more time ahead. Which makes it also weird if people ask how things are going and basically I had nothing to share yet. 

Which blue we need for the walls, screenshot from video

Sewing the work 'Good living | Tiga Negeri' at home

Start of build-up at Erasmus Huis

On 2 October finally my exhibition was announced with a short video I made in which the pembatiks & me introduce ourselves.
On 13 October I left for Jakarta. My bag filled with batiks for the exhibition, a harddisk with all the videos and a brand new outfit by Mirk Fair Fashion. The technical team, Mas Denny, Mas Gideon and Mas Andri, normally consisting of four with support of anyone who lends a hand, started the build up in the week I arrived. I got unwrapping videos of the batiks that arrived from the pembatiks and videos of which wall need to be what colour. Everything was painted a very dark grey for the exhibition before me. I didn’t want to keep it, but just white seemed boring too. Anna of Erasmus Huis said, just do a colour on some of the walls. Of course I knew which colour it had to be, the tosca that decorates many houses here, the Lasem blue, one of my favorite colours. After back and forth messages & videos, I picked ‘Poolside’ hoping it was the right colour. 
So when I arrive of 14 October the walls were painted in my requested Tosca, which was exactly right, the frames got delivered and the dye lab table was standing. All the rest we still had to do. After finalizing more details on how things had to hang and could hang, slowly the space got turned into my exhibition.
It was so amazing to see everything I thought out on paper actually worked great in the space. I mean I work in the cultural scene for a long time and made many exhibitions, of my work and that of others. But I would always be able to just walk into the space and check. So not to brag, but I am still really amazed I can do that.
The last work we hung is also the biggest work. Three pieces I already sew together in the Netherlands. The last Batik was being dyed by Ibu Siti, so I picked it up on Saturday at Erasmus Huis. On Monday I spend 4 hours mending and sewing it together by hand. On Friday evening we hung it as a group afford. It was the greatest thing seeing it a come together and finished!

Sewing 'Good living | Tiga Negeri' in my hotel room by hand

Installing 'Good living | Tiga Negeri'

On Friday also my batik family from Lasem and Batang arrived. In the morning we were all having breakfast together at the hotel. Right away the pembatiks were introducing themselves, chatting with eachother. It felt like we created a little batik conference. 

In the afternoon of 21 October I finished the last details at Erasmus Huis with Nidi Kusmaya, who is a rockstar with 2 other exhibitions at the same time in Jakarta, while the pembatiks went sightseeing. Nidi prepared the Natural dye lab in the days prier. Stunning how she can make form and function look so organized and photogenic at the same time. We will work on the other colours from the old recipe book while the exhibition continues and update it on site.

Nidi Kusmaya documenting the Natural Dye Lab

At 16h everyone arrived at Erasmus  Huis and the pembatiks got to finally see their work on display.
In the library of Erasmus Huis we all ate together with Erasmus Huis. The batik books were looked in, pembatiks got interviewed by different media and shared stories together. Ibu Siti brought an overview of her dye experiments, and Ibu Ramini told me she wanted to learn from her and I should arrange it. Siappp, I will!

At 19.30h the grand opening started. Jaef de Boer of Erasmus Huis welcomed everyone. So nice to see so many familiar faces and dear friends, coming from nearby and far away. The Dutch ambassador Lambert Grijns gave a great speech. He actually loves batik and was wearing a custom batik shirt with our Dutch national bird, Grutto {Black-tailed godwit / Biru-laut ekor-hitam}, on it. The warm welcome to the pembatiks and their family was so amazing and I was so happy I got to sit frontrow with them.
Jaef interviewed me shortly with some nice questions on the start of my journey and what my goal for this exhibition is. Difficult to answer, but when I see how people react to it, I feel the goal is already reached. My wish of bringing batik to the future, is already being achieved by having these interaction with the pembatiks, artists, researchers, audience and vistors. They’re the ones bringing batik further with them, celebrating Batik together.

Opening speech on 21 October by Jaef de Boer of Erasmus Huis

Mbak Nurul had the honour of officially opening the exhibition with the gong

I got to express my gratitude as well. And want to repeat it here, although I improvised it on the spot. In my exhibition I got to reflect on 14 years of my journey of Batik and 14 years since it became Unesco heritage. At first I thought, what a pity it isn’t 15 years, but two times 7 years is actually a much nicer symbolic number. When I said this, I saw someone nodding in agreement in the audience. 
I want to thank again the pembatiks; Mak Sium, Mbak Eka, Mbak Nurul, Ibu Siti, Ibu Ramini and Ibu Widianti, who could unfortunately not be there for the opening. Without them my journey and this exhibition would not be possible and I am so thankful for them and their families support. 
I am thankful for Erasmus Huis, for all the help from Yolande, Anna, Jaef, Oxalis, the technical team and everyone else there making me feel welcome.
I wanted to thank my love, Koen, who had to miss the opening, but was very much involved in the making of this exhibition, and is my biggest supporter. 
Thankful for my family, for my grandparents who introduce me to the wonderful crafts of Indonesia and brought me on this path to Batik.
I also want to thank my batik mentors, luckily some where in the audience, like Pak William Kwan, John Ang and Pak Hartono. 
Thank you!

Go visit ‘Masa depan Batik | Future of Batik’, 
on display at Erasmus Huis in Jakarta (Indonesia) until 20 January 2024. 
Open on Tuesday till Saturday from 10am till 16pm.

Nidia Kusmaya, Siti and her children, Nurul and her sister, Ibu of Yullia, Ibu Ramini and her sister, Mas Karim, me, Mak Sium and her son-in-law, Mbak Eka and Tasya