November 5, 2023

We don’t put big sign like that

Ibu Rasminah and her batik

Batik Carnival Pekalongan

Last weekend I escaped Jakarta and now I am escaping again. So trainride blogging again.
Last weekend I went to Pekalongan. I was already planning to go and got an invite to the Batik Carnival, just to watch this time, not as a jury
To my surprise the Pekan Batik/Batik Week just started also. So when I arrived on Friday, I went there first. Mbak Mila of the brand Molafi, who I met last year, accompanied me. Her university had their own booth this year. At the university Pekalongan batik making and making batik product is part of the education. It is nice that through Mbak Mila I get to know other students too. At the booth my eye caught this interesting slendang. I thought it was white with only a bold motif of a squirrel on. The tails were connected in the shape of clouds like Mega Mendung. Actually the background was dyed using Coconut husk. Apparently the batik was made last year and the colour had faded into this pale yellow. I asked Mbak Mila if we could meet the maker the next day, so I could buy it from her directly.
Mas Fairuzulha also came to meet us. As the tourism/cultural ambassador he was already there everyday, but still came to meet me with his friend who was also the current ambassador. We went for dinner together nearby. We talked about how batik can be promoted for younger generation. The friend organised an event where you had to wear batik to enter, inspired by the events in Jakarta by Swara Gembira. Only most were wearing printed textiles, of course with batik motifs.Not real handmade Batik Tulis or Cap. So it is a nice idea, but if the visitors do not wear real batik, you are actually adding onto the problem, not being the solution. So how do you get people inspired to wear it. Mbak Mila is working on this too with her brand. She was wearing these fabulous pants with a large free parang motif. They were sold out, great, less great for me, but she explained at her university they didn’t teach them about fashion, only making fine batik. How to balance all these ideas and find a way forward? I think it is also a generational thing, because guess what, the new generation of Batik wearing is already there and it is a young generation, jippie!

Batik from Mbak Mila's family collection

Angel on Batik from Mbak Mila's family collection

On Saturday 28 October I was welcomed at Mbak Mila’s home. The house of her grandparents was renovated last year. It is this stunning 1920’s house with patterned floor-tiles, completely surrounded by other buildings, so not visible from the street, but even has a garden. Mila’s mother, who runs ‘Batik H.M’, surprised us by sharing Mila’s grandmothers batik collection. Some are made by her, others only worn probably. It were mostly Pekalongan pieces, I recognised styles I now only see in Batang, some Sogan pieces, including one with an angel. Our favourite was one with a European style basket. The batik most likely dates from 1940-1950. It was amazing to see, and Mila was so happy her mother finally shared them with her too. They will definitely provided much inspiration for upcoming collections for Molafi.

Ibu Nur showing us around in the exhibition 'Buketan' 
at Museum Batik in Pekalongan

After the batik breakfast, me and Mila headed to Museum Batik. She was a month an internship there, between my last visit and now, just so she could learn more about batik! 
At Museum Batik we were welcomed by Ibu Nur, the director of the museum. Very tired after non-stop program with many batik competitions, she still gave us a guided tour through the new exhibition about ‘Buketan’ and showed us the new collection pieces, all by Iwan Tirta. Truly artworks, his designs are so beautiful and I realised, or think, that some might be inspired by William Morris his wallpaper. I wonder if he was, I think Morris writing about protecting and reviving crafts must have spoken to Tirta. I have a quote by Iwan Tirta in my exhibition as well, so it was extra nice to see his work up close again. Before we headed to the Batik Week, we had a short look around at the Batik Carnival preparations. This time it was held at night, so the participants were judged in the afternoon. 

Batik by Iwan Tirta at Museum Pekalongan

Batik Carnival Pekalongan preparations

At the Batik Week we met with Yovita Christi the maker of the slendang. The booth was filled with nervous students and everything was documented on phones. I tried to make a little conversation and if she wanted to ask me anything, but as often is with first meetings here, she did not dare yet. She did send me through WA this explanation about her work;

Inspired by squirrels that have calm behavior and intelligent thinking, this Selendang Batik visualizes how Batik culture and the young generation collaborate to survive in this era.

Background color: Natural dyes from Coconut Husk 
Colet dyes: Remazol
Process: 1-2 months
1. Two squirrels with modifications of Mega Mendung on their tails. 
2. Trees and pine cones at both ends of the Selendang Batik.
3. Squirrels running around the edge of Selendang Batik. 


I hope Yovita continues to make batik and looking forward to meeting her again and seeing her next designs!

In the evening it was Batik Carnival time. The new trend on Java is at night. So participants add lights, even fireworks to their creations. I was happy I saw some of them already during the day, because it was difficult to see any details, or the batik for that matter. There were some spectacular looks, really a new level. Some favourites; The Hong bird, which was an installations on wheels with firework! The food-cart with one person dressed up as the meal. The boat, there were many boats, but this was like a full size boat. All the dragons and a Nonna Belanda. Not a favourite, but it is interesting how this history is being referred too. It is not about the sarong kebaya style of the early 1900’s or about the Indo-European batik entrepreneurs. The look they made is like the “Dutch lady” in the old city in Jakarta which whom you can take a photograph. The style is more like a lady in an impressionistic painting, or like in a costume drama movie, not really what they were wearing when they walked around in Pekalongan a century or more ago.

Batik Carnival Pekalongan 2023

Sunday 29 October in Pekalongan I spend by relaxing and visiting Ibu Widianti of Oey Soe Tjoen. She couldn’t be at the opening, so I wanted to visit her and thank her, also from Erasmus Huis. 
We talked about her exhibition and book plans for 2025. About her newly made designs, about the quality of batiks and the lack of workshops in Kedungwuni or Pekalongan for that matter. On the way to Kedungwuni you see so many signs saying that Batik is sold there. The bigger banner the better. But in reality only the batikworkshop of Oey Soe Tjoen and Liem Ping Wie are really making batik and the others sell printed dusters (housedresses) and sarongs with ‘cold wax’. Ibu Widianti said; “We don’t put big sign like that”, meaning, the big signs are the ones selling fake batik. 

Ibu Widianti and me

Banner on a shop selling "Batik"

My short visit to Pekalongan was not complete without a visit to Batang. I just wanted to visit the pembatiks I hadn’t seen yet the weekend before, because I will return later this month. 
Mas Qomar picked me up on Monday and we first went to Ibu Rasminah. Our visit was not announced, so she opened the door wondering who was bothering her, then shock, to continue in full laughter. I shared with Ibu Rasminah photos of Koen and Noël van Bemmel wearing a blouse made from her batik. She loved it sooo much! She approved on the way her motif was placed and was just so surprised and proud all at once. 
She wanted to share her latest made pieces. Most designs I have at home, but I learn every time new things about motif names and this time gender also. In Batang the kepala, head of the sarong, is called Tumpal and is actually only for men! The sarong without kepala is for women. Men wear the sarong with the kepala in the back, this I knew, but that only they  wear the kepala was something new. I don’t know from when this is custom and if in other places it is like this too, something to dive into.

Ibu Rasminah holding the batik for women, 
her son shows us the batik for men

Ibu Salmah with a batik by her grandmother, her grandfather pointing out the details
After our visit to Ibu Rasminah, miss her already, we headed to Ibu Rujaemah and granddaughter Ibu Salmah. I have stayed in contact with Ibu Salmah on WA. I wish we could chat more easily, we are from different world, but I just love how she support her grandmothers batik. She is not a batikmaker herself, yet but she does make clothing. Only homedresses at the moment, but I ask her to make something with a batik. Hopefully it is finished when I return and I can share it here. 
We talked batik, of course and her sewing business, while we got to try different snacks, fruits and even pecel made by their family. I always laugh about Mas Qomar ability to snack while asking about the most serious everything. In between hee would tell me; don’t eat this, not vegetarian, eat this and pushes a plate or pot towards me. 

Design to make a Cap at workshop Khopir

Weaving at Ridaka Tenun

Cotton Shop

After my visits, Mas Qomar wanted to show me some more things. First we went to a local cap maker. Mas Khopir has been producing caps since 1999. The porch that is their workshop had just two tables, for him and Mas Amad. In a cupboard all the design drawings are kept, oh I wanted to see them all, but also didn’t want to take more of their time.
Next stop was Tenun. Ridaka Tenun in Pekalongan has been up and running since 1940. The family house that is the shop has in the back the production. The old wooden looms are used the produce unconvention fabrics. They were weaving cotton, natural dyed, together with banana fiber. It is shipped to Japan and used as wallpaper. 
In the shop I was showed other products such as towels with batik motifs, but the motifs are actually applied with Batik Cap! 
Last place we stopped was the local cottonseller. A space just filled with rolls and bales of cotton. They had the local ‘Tari kupu-kupu’, primissima, prima, but also a cotton called ‘silk’ because of the shiny finish and other textiles like dobby (silk/cotton) and rayon. Didn’t buy any textile, but it was nice to see where basically everyone in Pekalongan & Batang gets their cotton.

Thank you Batik City, and Batik region of the world, and sampai jumpa lagi! 

Yes, Batik is Art! Love this graffiti artwork

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