November 18, 2023

Knowledge over ignorance*

Decorations for sale for Deepavali

Pop-up sister exhibition of 'Masa depan batik' at aNERDgallery

Sitting in BatikAir for my return flight to Jakarta after a week+ in Singapore. It was absolutely wonderful to be back in this city and meet up with textile friends.
Tony of aNERDgallery put together a lovely weekend to celebrate Batik & my return. I had a full schedule with talks, museum visits, even a depot visit and catching up on the latest projects happing. I will miss a full Saturday celebrating Kebaya in Singapore > go check out the exhibition ‘Gaya Kebaya, 130 years’. Also catch aNERDgallery with Meet the Makers at the Boutique Fair. But of course looking forward to my own workshop making paper sarongs at Erasmus Huis on this Saturday, 17 November.

Tony of aNERDgallery & aNERDstore welcoming the guests

Pop-up sister exhibition of 'Masa depan batik' at aNERDgallery

Hafiz Rashid always dressed stylish in traditional inspired wear

Research workshop at aNERDgallery

Talking about the future of Batik

I arrived a week ago on Thursday. With the MRT, local public transport, I made my way to aNERDstore. Tony of aNERDgallery just got the keys of the place when I was here in 2022, so it was great to see the transformation. I got to hang several pieces of Batik I brought with me from the same makers featured in my exhibition, so by Ibu Ramini, Mbak Eka, Ibu Siti, Mak Sium and Mbak Nurul. In the front of the store Tony has all kinds of items made with textile from mostly Indonesia; clothing, jewellery, bags, scarfs and uncut kains. In the back he does exhibitions and workshops. 
It was so nice to have this little pop-up sister-exhibition of ‘Masa depan Batik’. On Friday we opened with a session talking about the Future of Batik. Wonderful to share a little bit more on the ideas behind the exhibition, the worries about batik and how it is going with the exhibition. 
In the evening we had the Batik Friends Fridate and the batik friends not only turned up, but also shopped! So happy to see the pieces I brought were liked here so much. So much so that Hafiz Rashid who was preparing his tales for the storytelling event had to change it two times since the items he wanted to talk about got sold. 
On Saturday I did the Batik research workshop. I really enjoying giving this workshop, and glad I get to do it two more times on Java. The idea behind the workshop is to work in a more hands-one way with a database. With questions to answer using the digital database of Wereldmuseum  and provided sources, the participants get an introduction in not only how to use the database, but also on why certain things might not work. Of course this is based on my personal experience using these databases and sources. One participant was saying; “That is why I couldn’t found so much!”. Looking forward turning it in a digital version when I return. Read more on the previous workshop here in my post.
On Saturday evening we had the storytelling session. It was so exciting to work with Hafiz Rashid on this. We had a WA call two weeks before I came to share the optional pieces, and because of as Hafiz would call it ~ a happy problem ~ some of the pieces he selected were already sold. While he had to improvise, it was great and well prepared. His stories are local folktales, fairytales if you will and give an interesting dimension to the batiks. It is not necessarily based on the actual story behind the work, but more a reaction to what he sees. I responded to the stories telling a little bit more about the maker with a personal anekdote. I think my favourite was the one of the little mouse-deer Kancil that was surprisingly dark and gruesome. He told it with the batik of Mak Sium on which she depict ‘Roban forest’ which has a darker, mythical undertone. It fitten really well and it made us chuckle. 
I enjoyed having this as a grownup activity, we sometimes forget importance of storytelling, not just of historical facts, but also in a more fun, relax way using old folktales. 

Photo wall at Peranakan Museum

Fun kebaya at the Peranakan Museum

Full set of Nyonya Ware

On Sunday me and Tony went to the Peranakan Museum. It opened up recently after being closed for a while for renovations. The museum is pretty small, but housed in a nice building. The first floor/entrance is all about “What is an peranakan?”. It tries to show a multicultural display of the different peranakan communities, but of course the museum focus on one, the most well-known one, that of the Peranakan Chinese community. In this part of the exhibition are also many photos from the collection. They are displayed covering the walls and on screens you can get more info, or at least the info from the database. 
The other floors show objects related to Peranakan Chinese culture such as ceramics {nyonya ware}, furniture and jewellery, of course to wear there are items that are beaded, batiked, embroidered & laced. 
To my surprise the room displaying batik was divided into ‘Indo-Dutch batik makers’ ~ ‘Peranakan Chinese batik makers’ ~ Pesisir & Principalities’ {Why not Javanese makers?} and ‘Batik as Furnishings’. An even bigger surprise was finding the term Batik Belanda used to describe the batiks with a European influence.

Batik workshops established and run by Indo-European women were in operation from around the mid-19th century into the first decades of the 20th century (before the Japanese occupation of Singapore).
Popularly called "Batik Belanda", the batiks created by these workshops often depicted motifs inspired by Dutch fashion and craft magazines, as well as Christian symbols and scenes from European fairy tales. Other innovations included the introduction of a lace-like border with scalloped edges.

I gave last year a talk at ACM on this topic and it was before the museum re-opened. 
But there is more. 
How can you explain on a sign that Indo-Europeans make batiks with European motifs while the work of an Indonesian maker, of whom we sadly know nothing, is in the same room, from the exactly the same time With A Snow White batik! The batik with Snow White by batik entrepreneur Soediro is classified as a ‘Tiga Negeri’, what? 
Yes, it was a trend, and yes it was European inspired, but stop this racializing narrative on these makers. We need to really re-tell this history and let go of the way it was introduced by Veldhuisen in his book ‘Batik Belanda’. But for now I am happy with a removal of just Batik Belanda of the text sign ;). It was the populair term for imitations from Europe, never before 1993 for the batiks from Java with a European influence in the motifs.     

Eversince the start of my project together with Dido Michielsen on ‘The meaning of the white kebaya’ I was excited to go to Singapore.
In the Peranakan Museum was of course a lovely display of kebayas. One display showcasing different styles had no less than 4 white kebayas, but only 2 would be identified as “European style”. I had already some short chats during the days before, and looking forward continuing them in more depth. A version was also worn in Singapore, it was used by different groups and when it exactly started is still unclear, but already some useful suggestions were made. It will for sure already bring an, I think, new perspective. But first more work on this. For now just enjoying what I got to see.

White kebayas at the Peranakan Museum

Making Rangoli for the celebrations

After opening shop, in the evening we went to see the Deepavali celebrations.
Diwali (English: Deepavali) is the Hindu festival of lights with its variations also celebrated in other Indian religions. It symbolises the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance".*
aNERDstore is right next to Little India and the decorations were already everywhere, even actual rangoli (temporary floor decorations) every day in front of the stores. 
The Indian Heritage Center was open for free on Sunday. It has a great display of objects and stories related to the Indian community in Singapore. 
I feel in the Netherlands, or Europe for that matter don’t really have these kind of places and after this week in Singapore I really wonder why… We don’t even have room for other holidays to be actual free days. 
I am not saying that Singapore is perfect, there is also here a lot of “othering” and exclusion, but the ways these different cultures seem to be celebrated is refreshing. 
I guess the “knowledge over ignorance” hits at the core.

On Tuesday I was invited to give a talk at the Eurasian Association. Hafiz came with the suggestion to share my research there and it seemed as an interesting place to raise some of the questions I have regarding how we now tell batik history and specifically the history of the European influence. 
They announced my talk as a Kebaya talk, so because it was mostly batik talk, I wore my new kebaya again. 
In the audience we had apart from the Eurasian society members, also some of the nyonya’s in their colourful kebayas & batiks and many dosens, as in guides for museums. They had by far the most questions afterwards, especially since terms like ‘Batik Belanda’ are specifically taught to them to explain in tours. I loved that one asked; “Sabine, what are you debunking next”. I explained, it is not so much on proving something is not true, it is much more finding a layered story. And yes, something things are just wrong, and we can put them right. One talk at a time.

Group photo after my talk

On Wednesday morning got a tour through the Heritage Conservation Centre, the place where 100,000 artefacts are kept from about 7 museums. From paintings to giant metal sculptures, from old wooden furniture to fashion and everything else and more. I always love seeing a new depot, and in this case, restoration and research center. Sufiyanto who is a restorator there, gave us the tour and shared more on their work and future plans. Exciting batik donation has been added and cannot wait to hear more about it! A morning well spend!

In the evening I was invited for the opening of the new exhibition at ACM. I didn’t manage to see the exhibition, it was very busy. But got a sneak peek of an exhibition instead I was otherwise going to miss. So I returned the next afternoon to ACM. Since I only saw ‘Batik Kita’ last time, three times, I decided to begin at the beginning and just do the whole building. 
I am so happy I did that, because besides great objects, I ran into some batiks & other textiles I have to do continue research on. So basically homework… Patola keep following me this trip. Not the real ones, but the European imitations. Which is great, only now to find time to dive into it more. 
Highlight at ACM is for sure the current fashion exhibition, all the way upstairs, ‘Textile masters to the world, the global desire for Indian cloth’ which shows in a pretty small space how divers this worldwide trend was. The shown pieces are just stunning. 
Also a new book was published of an exhibition of 10 years ago ‘Patterns of Trade, Indian textiles for export’. A dream of a book!

I am back in Jakarta, hope to meet & see you here! Thanks Singapore, and thanks Mas Tony, it was wonderful to be busy together. Cannot wait to return!

Spot the mina bird

November 10, 2023

Research & quality time in Bandung

Near Bandung from the train

On the way to Singapore for a nice program together with aNERDgallery. Happy to return already after a year I had such a good time. 
This passed weekend I returned to Bandung. I only been there in 2016. I was traveling alone, like always, but at that time I didn’t know many people & really was finding out everything while traveling. Although my trip was good, it was also confronting, I cried on Braga street while eating a tompoes, and traditionally there isn’t much batik culture there. But I am glad I returned after 7 years, made friends along the way with whom I have been working with and would like to work with more. I was also invited to give a talk at the University Maranatha in Bandung.

With Nidi Kusmaya and Arlene D. Soemardi 
in front of Nidi's studio

Inside Nidi's studio 'Earth and Plant Pigment Expert'

Working on the recipes in Bandung

I left right after the Batik workshop at Erasmus Huis on Saturday. I was traveling with Mr. Pot, the pan I bought for the Indigo vat that would now be used by Nidi Kusmaya for our Natural Dye Lab project. My hand were a little bit blue, but luckily most people were sleeping in the train. 
I arrived late, but it gave me a full day on Sunday.
It was so so so nice to have a lazy cafe Sunday in Bandung talking with friends! Arlene D. Soemardi who I worked with in the Netherlands and of which just got published this amazing story for my Things That Talk zone ‘Fabric(s) of Leiden’ on a Batik by J.Jans that I helped her write. She joined me and Nidi, and we got to meet her baby, 4 months old, re-see her husband and mother. It was so sweet of them to join so that we got to chat and chat and chat. It is funny how sometimes it is a small world, Arlene and Nidi were schoolmates. Arlene also interviewed my brother who joined our batik workshop we gave together at the Indonesian embassy in May 2022. I had him on the phone in the morning and could give his warm regards right away! I love how we can be spread over the globe in different timezones and still connect and keep connected.
In the afternoon Nidi and I moved to another location to have lunch and work on our project. The Natural Dye Lab is for the first time on display. We started the project in the pandemic together with Tony Sugiarta of aNERDgallery.

Natural Dye Recipe Project in collaboration with Indonesian artist Nidi Kusmaya and curator Tony Sugiarta. With growing interest and discussion in sustainability and fashion (de-)colonisation history, it piques the curiosity of the use of natural dyes in local textile culture, including Indonesian batik. Through this research-based textile project, Bolk, Kusmaya and Sugiarta aim to
trace historical narratives and the connections through material exploration used in batik natural dyes. There is a knowledge gap in the technical execution and historical account of how natural dyes were used in batik in the past versus how it is used today. Due to limited records since the oral history has been lost, we depend on old writings often in Dutch. The starting point for this researchproject is therefor one of the oldest published dye recipe books in Dutch, ‘Iets over de inlandsche wijze van katoen-verven op Midden-Java’ (Something on the local way of Cotton dyeing on Central Java) by the Dutch Samuel Corneille Jean Wilhelm van Musschenbroek (1827 - 1883). The booklet was published in 1877 and was translated by Van Musschenbroek from an Javanese text which he doesn’t specify. He was based on Java as a civil servant and had in interest in local traditions. He also commissioned batik motifs drawn in wax on cardboard, so at least he was aware of the technique.
The text by Van Musschenbroek is translated by us to re-creation the old recipes and find out workable formulas. For Erasmus Huis we focus is on three natural colours, namely blue, brown and red. The process and progress of this colours will be shared and updated throughout the exhibition in this Natural Dye Lab.

Through WA, a zoom with experts and calls we manage to do a lot of preparations. Now it was a great opportunity to launch the project and use this time to work on it further. In the exhibition you can see the first experiments with re-creating the Blue ~ Indigo recipe from the recipe book by Van Musschenbroek. We hope to update Brown ~ Sogan on 28 November at Erasmus Huis {feel free to come, meet us & ask questions} and while work on collecting the materials needed for Red ~ Mengkudu. The process of dyeing with Mengkudu is pretty long and since the practice of dyeing bright red has been lost, we want to take our time with it. Our hope is we can present the recipe book by Van Musschenbroek in a not just translated version, but in a workable recipe book. 

It is so fun to work on this project. We laugh so much when trying to figure out what tools were used. Van Musschenbroek has this way of listing tools to scoop or measure with descriptions on local uses. This provides very useful to figure out what it actually is. 
To be continued!

Giving my talk at University Maranatha

Batik design made by students of Christine Lukman inspired by Lasem stories, 
produced in Lasem by batikworkshops

Batik design made by students of Christine Lukman inspired by Lasem stories, 
produced in Lasem by batikworkshops

Groupphoto at University Maranatha 

On Monday morning I gave a talk at the University Maranatha. Professor Christine Lukman invited me to share about my research. I gave the talk only for the lecturers, while I prepared with the students in mind, luckily it was received really well and provided us with enough points for discussion after wards. While fieldresearch is very common in Indonesia, provenance research is done far less. Logical if you consider most sources and data are kept outside Indonesia, with a big part kept in the Netherlands. So I hope we can continue sharing knowledge and help each others research.

Institut Teknologi Bandung

The institute was a big surprise, not only are the buildings stunning. 
It was build in 1920 as the first technical university

The Material library

The Material library

Ibu Tyar showing how thick the wooden beams are
at Bandung Institute of Technology 

After the talk I headed to meet Nidi & Ibu Tyar at Bandung Institute of Technology. Tyar Ratuanissa is a researcher at Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) with a focus on Batik and natural materials.
I met Tyar online during the soft launch of the Natural dye project and it was great to go to her lab!
The institute was a big surprise, not only are the buildings stunning. it was build in 1920 as the first technical university. The students are so divers and cool, saw a lot of pink hair. Wish I could study there! 
In the building that houses Ibu Tyar’s lab ‘Tren Warna - Trend Color Lab’ is downstairs a Material library. Displayed are materials that research has been done on; colour pigments from waste materials, woven mats, and even more experimental stuff like textile from fungi. 
Upstairs Tyar has her lab, the main project she is working on is ‘mapping colours’. She shared her progress and the necessary detour her work is on. Turned out to do the actual mapping, first the photography of the batiks has to be correct and this turned out more challenging than imagined. Not having a standard system in place at the partner museum, ment this had to be created first. An interesting progress and I always think this is as much part of the research as the final report. So thanks for sharing Ibu Tyar!
We had too little time, and I really have to return, but it was already so great to just talk. It was so nice I almost missed my train back to Jakarta! 

Till next time Bandung!

There has been some shares on my exhibition online, check them out here:

November 7, 2023

True Blue*

Indigo dyeing in process, 4 November at Erasmus Huis

I had to return from Pekalongan and Batang right away after the weekend, because the Dutch embassy and Erasmus Huis would get a visit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 November, and it would include a visit to my exhibition. I never gave such a quick tour in my life, but it was happy I could share a little about the stories behind the batiks made by Ibu Ramini, Ibu Siti and Mak Sium. So in 5 minutes Hanke Bruins Slot was off to her next meeting.

Wrapping batik at Esmod

In the afternoon I headed to Ibu Liesna at Esmod. We hope to create a pop-up fashion moment in the exhibition in which students create looks by just wrapping the batiks. The students came to the Pasar Batik to pick out two kains they wanted to use. 
Ibu Liesna already did a pre-wrapping session and we tried 3 looks using two kains. Looking forward to see the final wraps!

Pak Bahri with a new Batik design with turtles, 
motif name Serak Danau Spin (Kura-kura Danau Sipin) Latar Bungo Klambanq Bertaut

Basket with fish in new batik design 'Jagad Panguripan' from Batang

New batik motif 'Semanggi Kontak Listrik'

On 2 November I headed to the presentation and exhibition of Pak William Kwan’s latest research project on Batik Jambi & Batang; Pameran Merangkai Batik
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. In the exhibition, which was way to short on display only 3 days, Pak William showed pieces from his collection, new made designs created by artisans in Jambi and Batang and collaborations of the two. There were some really fun designs, about lighting and electricity, or on local crafts like basket weaving, but also sea turtles and revivals of classic motifs. One of this classic ones right away caught my eye. Pak Zainul Bahri who made the Jambi pieces, said to me, this is a very old motif from Jambi. The motif in question is a motif I know all too well, because it is on one of the pieces I have been researching to. This motif is referred to in old documents as ‘Dancing peacocks’, while Pak Bahri birds were called ‘Kuau Berhias’ which translated into ‘Decorated Pheasants’. I shared this together with the new motif next to old one on my social media and oh how I love my friends. Jennifer got inspired by my post and started googling. She not only found that the local bird Kuau and Peacocks are closely related. The Kuau bird recently was re-discovered in Aceh! She shared a video of the bird and actually they do truly dance to impress the females. So a real Dancing peacock. There are several subspecies of the bird, even one called Bornean peacock-pheasant. So probably both names are right, but over time the motif was more explained as a peacock, will actually it is more a pheasant. To be continued…

New design by Pak Bahri, motif name 'Kuau Berhias'

Old version from before 1874, 
Collection Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, 
inventorynumber WM-272

The talk ‘Diskusi Literasi: Ecoefisiensi & Masa Depan Batik Indonesia’ held at the venue was interesting and frustrating. It was a younger generation sharing their thoughts on Batik, but two explained how ‘cold wax’ was a good idea for the future of batik. ‘Malam dinggin’ is not batik. It is a resist dye technique using screenprinting, or “sjablon. But only the hot wax process is batik as stated clearly in the description of this Unesco intangible heritage. Brands that work with Malam dinggin are happy to post pictures of pembatiks, but never of their actual workshop where the screenprinting is done. These small workshop don’t have any protective measures for the makers, the working conditions are really bad, at least seen from the secret videos shared online. Worst of all, the whole it is cheaper argument is only for the one who produce and sells it. The malam dinggin products are as high or higher priced than batik. It is so smart to tell consumers that it is cheaper. Honestly just buy a real batik and go to a tailor, or learn to wrap it in different ways and have 5 looks for the price of one. We should not consider ‘Malam dinggin’ as a good solution.
Luckily Pak Bahri saved the morning by sharing with us batiks he made based on old motifs he could find in books and (Dutch) collections. He even showed us two old Jambi batiks, which were almost falling apart, but still so gorgeous. Wanted have a closer look, but had to run of to go to a meeting at Erasmus Huis.

Slide on 'Cold wax', next to Batik Tulis

Pak Bahri sharing a old Jambi Batik with us

In the afternoon Chandra Prijosusilo visited my exhibition. I have been admiring her work for a while now. As the founder of Sekar Kawung Social Enterprize that focusses on Biodiversity & culture for sustainable prosperity, Chandra did remarkable projects with textile communities. She is not just looking at the craft, but at the full picture. So what is needed to grow and maintain to be able to continue the craft in a sustainable way, improving not just the craft but their surrounding as well. At the moment her focus is on Tuban.
She brought with her this so stylishly dressed couple Mas Lalu Hilman Afriandi and his wife Dina of Bidadariku. They make natural produced textiles in Lombok and they were dressed head to tow in it too. 
What an honour to have such amazing visitors. By the way, we already had more than a 1000 visitors!!
It was so wonderful to go with them through the exhibition. The work by Ibu Siti, which is fully done in natural dye, and the Natural Dye lab project had their interest. They looking forward to the continuation of this project, Nidi and Tony! 
At my small cinema, we watched ‘Tari Batik'. Automatically ‘Dance in a ricecarpet’ started playing too and we ended up watching it in full. We laughed about how “mainstream” my exhibition is, compared to my older work. Thank you so much for your visit and cannot wait for our next meet-up in Yogya or Tuban!

Ibu Chandra, me, Ibu Dina and Mas Lalu at my exhibition

On Friday 3 November me and Ibu Liesna went to visit Griya Peni, the creative home/workshop of Ibu Indra and her daughter Peni. 
I have seen Ibu Indra often during the pandemic in zooms on Batik, either as a speaker or as a participants like me. I was so happy when Ibu Indra, her daughter and full Griya Peni team attended the Pasar Batik. 
So Friday me and Ibu Liesna went to their place, thanks Liesna for driving and joining me. The place is great, but a little outside of Jakarta. It was so nice to see be there and share stories. Every corner is pretty and I am sure who ever follows a workshop there has a lovely time.
Thanks for welcome me & read more in Bahasa Indonesia on their blog; DIPLOMASI WASTRA bersama Ms. SABINE BOLK

Ibu Liesna at Griya Peni

Slendang mural outside of Griya Peni with Ibu Indra

Saturday was an event I was looking forward to and was scared off all at once. The Batikworkshop with Indigo. I have been giving workshop myself and doing it on a new location is always exciting, but now with buying, borrowing and improvising the needed materials, I really was like, can we? But it went perfect. Museum Tekstil borrowed us all the material we needed for the batik making. So the stoves {kompor}, little stools, canting, wax, bigger stove for boiling out the wax {lorod}, a pan and plastic containers for rinsing. Their batik teachers Mbak Yeni and Mas Edy were there to guide everyone to the process. At Museum Tekstil you can follow Batik courses (I believe every weekend, and on request). At the moment they are closed for renovations, but later this year you can go there again to learn making batik. 
Mbak Elisa of Jivaloka was our Indigo expert all the way from Yogyakarta. It was amazing to see her create a dye vat, all natural, in the morning. Her focus is indigo, so it was great to put her expertise together with Museum Tekstil. Mbak Yeni and Mas Edy had loads of questions for her, and it turned out they never had an Indigo vat at the museum. Because the dye vat wouldn’t be used at Erasmus Huis after the workshop and couldn’t be brought home with Elisa, so we were very happy ‘migunani’ { useful/nuttig as Elisa named the vat } was brought to Museum Tekstil after the workshop. Talking about Masa depan Batik!

Mbak Elisa of Jivaloka with Indigo dyevat ‘Migunani'

Ibu Yeni explaining how to use the canting to draw the hot wax

Starting with a blank canvas

Giving information on Indigo while bringing the vat to live

30+ participants making batik

Ready to be dipped into the Indigo

Watching everyones dyed batiks

Mas Edy of Museum Tekstil boiling out the wax

We worked on cotton prepared by Ibu Siti in Batang, the cotton has to be mordant so the dye can go into the cloth. I cut it on size the night before. Ripping pieces of white cotton in a hotelroom is a strange experience and I was worried my neighbors might call the hotel wkwkwk.
I didn’t put a drawing with pencil on the cloth, I never do that, but it is very common on Java. So first the participants were like, we need to design ourselves?!? 
I was so happy that after a short moment, they all just dove in it, creating all unique pieces.
The participants came in as early as 9.30. After meeting Elisa and talk about Indigo, they would start with drawing the wax. When it was time for the first group to start dyeing, the dye vat was a little bit too hot. Luckily Hema the small restaurant at Erasmus Huis provided us with buckets of icecubes. It cooled it enough down, to put the cloth in without melting the wax already. 
The participants had to dip their batiks 3 to 4 times to get a dark enough blue before boiling the wax out. We really had a nice production going on with timers going off, people rinsing, hanging to dry, taking the dried pieces and putting it back in the dye vat.
By 13.30 all batiks were ready to have the wax removed, so perfectly on time. Amazing with 30+ participants! And everyone was so happy with their own made batik!
Thanks Elisa, Mbak Yeni, Mas Edy, Mas Ardi, Museum Tekstil and Ibu Siti! Thanks Erasmus Huis for letting me host this workshop!
Up to the next one!

Insta story of Elisa of Jivaloka

* True love
You're the one I'm dreaming of
Your heart fits me like a glove
And I'm gonna be true blue, baby, I love you
                                                        - Madonna