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:

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