December 5, 2023

For the love of Batik

Me and Koen in the exhibition 'Masa depan Batik' at Erasmus Huis

Live on SEA Today Live on 17 November

Haven’t updated much on our travels, it is so wonderful to introduce Mas Koen to everyone. It feels very relax having Koen finally on my side here and he luckily enjoys it very much despits the heat & tummy ache. 

Before Koen’s arrival in Jakarta I still had a full program. Returning from Singapore on 17 November I was a guest at SEA Today, an online newschannel, who interviewed me through Zoom.   I never been on live tv, and was happy to have ‘The Newsroom’ experience through the all so familiar webcam. 

I was delayed and took me some time to reach my room. Luckily I had enough time to figure out how to hang some batiks for my live appearance. I was contacted about a week before if I wanted to join the show and giggled when I saw the announcement “Dutch woman’s love for Indonesian Batik”. Going live my canting earrings were the first thing being noticed, after that my outfit & backdrop. “Wauw you really love Batik!”.  It was wonderful to chat with the hosts Hans, Alia and Kai who clearly have a love for Batik too and know a lot. Thanks Nazila for inviting me! 

> watch the SEA Today Live back here


On Saturday 18 November I gave my ‘paper sarong workshop’ at Erasmus Huis. had in two sessions groups of participants ~ kids and their equality active parents~ to draw together a batik design. 

The idea behind this workshop that you work together in creating a pattern. Usually pembatiks don’t work alone, but in groups. Everyone is first invited to draw a motif on a smaller paper. After the drawing is made, I ask them to combine them on a bigger paper. It is always wonderful to see what is made, also to see what is on kids minds. Next to flowers, ballerina’s, the somehow always popular ‘Kawung’ or Mega Mendung, there were robots, a t-rex and even planes on the way to war. The kids knew precisely how to draw the Palestinian flag.     

The created “paper sarongs” will be displayed at Erasmus Huis until the end of the exhibition ‘Masa depan Batik’, although they haven’t been hung up yet…

Working together to create motifs on a 'paper sarong'

One of the 'paper sarongs' made during the workshop at Erasmus Huis

On Monday 20 November got to give the Batik Research Workshop again. It is my favorite at the moment to do. It is so much fun to see the “ohhh” moments happen during this workshop. 

I have been working with the database of Worldmuseum (Wereldmuseum, former NMvW) for many years now and as a research associate I learned what is and is not online. The information is incomplete at best and filled in with mostly Dutch. So although it is a ‘rich’ collection useful for research, it is difficult to navigate. With the workshop I not only share how to use the database, but also how to search beyond the database. There is, unfortunately, too much trust in the completeness and accurateness of this database. What is written is seen as fact, as being the best researched collection, with the most knowledge to backup these claims. With some simple examples in the workshop, I saw that there is more out there to find, discover, discuss and re-tell. 

I am happy to workshop is received so well and when I get home I will create an online version of it.

For now, enjoy the database tutorial I made >> 

“Dokumentasi atau pelestarian batik tradisional masih dalam tahap awal. (…) Penelitian yang ditujukan untuk menghidupkan kembali atau mendokumentasikan pola-pola batik tua tidak cukup; publikasi oleh masyarakat Indonesia masih langka. Oleh karena itu, baik para pekerja batik maupun pengusaha batik tidak dapat melihat hal-hal istimewa atau mahakarya batik tradisional Indonesia.

Ada banyak kendala. Kini pertanyaan krusialnya adalah: ke mana kita harus pergi setelah ini? Bagaimana kita mengatasi tantangan tersebut? Bisakah tantangan tersebut benar-benar teratasi?”

- Iwan Tirta, 2000

“The documentation or preservation of traditional batik is in its infancy. (…) Not enough research is devoted to reviving or documenting old batik patterns; publications by Indonesians are scarce. Therefore neither batik workers nor batik entrepreneurs can see the highlights or masterpieces of Indonesian traditional batiks.

The obstacles are plenty. Now the crucial questions have become: where do we go from here? How do we overcome those challenges? Can they really be overcome?”

- Iwan Tirta, 2000

On Thursday morning Koen arrived in Jakarta. I went to pick him up at the airport. His first time in Java, in Asia for that matter, the first time flying so far. 

After a short nap in our room, he wanted to see my exhibition right away. Hard to describe to be able to finally share it. He of course was so much part of the process, not only practical; reading all my proposals, texts, listening to my ideas and worries, even helping me make all the text signs when I was already in Jakarta, but also the whole journey (to batik) till this point. 

When we headed outside for lunch, we run into Isabelle Boon. Isabelle had an exhibition ‘I love Banda’ shown in the Netherlands in 2021, which was amazing, and at Erasmus Huis in 2022. I followed the process closely, knowing I had my exhibition to make there too. The first time I met Isabelle was at a program in the Netherlands. We went for lunch together and what she shared was so helpful for my preparations. 

On the 18th, in the weekend I met with Joëlla van Donkersgoed.  She came to my exhibition and we later had dinner together, chatting till late like we already met several times, while it was actually the first time off screen. 

Joëlla and Isabelle were recently on Banda to return the Hikayat Lonthior, a long lost manuscript on the history of the Banda Islands. I admire Joëlla & Isabelle work so much, and it was such a surprise to meet them both. And have them visit my exhibition. Thank you for all your compliments, I know I am terrible at accepting them, it means the world to me!

I also would like to thank all other visitors. Every time I went to Erasmus Huis I would see people looking around, reading, watching the videos, posing for photos and colouring (perhaps the most busy part of my pameran). I saw people dressed in Batik, sitting in the library going through the batik books. Online there are great tiktok videos and instagram posts of my exhibition, I appreciate it so much and I am so happy it being shared like this! Also thank you for those who visited and send me a selfie! I wish I could give everyone a tour!

I am currently on the road with Koen. After visiting Pekalongan, Batang, Kaliwungu and Semarang, we are now on the way to Yogyakarta. 

Isabelle and me in the exhibition

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