The origins of Batik

Long before fabric printing, humans painted woven fabrics by hand to embellish and ennoble them. The Batik technique was already practiced a long time ago and has spread all over the planet following the movements of merchants who turned out to be great travellers. Thus, we discovered that Batik has evolved differently from country to country, varying in style and themes.

But what is Batik?

Batik is a Javanese word, so it comes from the island of Java in Indonesia. This word Batik has the same origin as the word tiktik, which means point. The origins of Batik date back more than 1,000 years: it is a technique of printing fabrics made by hand, and practiced in many countries such as China, India, Burkina Faso and of course Indonesia.
The Batik technique was widely promoted at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century thanks to its strong presence in Art Nouveau. Today, many visual artists are bringing this technique up to date.

Source: Le tissu Batik (Burkina Faso), Skyrock

The process of creating Batik uses a unique know-how called “thrift”. This practice consists of protecting the parts of the fabric that you do not want to color with hot wax, then drawing the patterns or soaking the fabric in dye baths. Then, this operation is repeated as many times as there are colors present on the fabric. Then the wax is removed using an iron or by soaking in boiling water. We then obtain a patterned fabric where different colors combine.

Indonesian Batik was inscribed in 2009 as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Javanese Batik (from the island of Java) is the finest and most elaborate of all. It is thanks to the Javanese Batik that this style of textile painting reached its peak. Java still hosts today the highest places of traditional Batik manufacturing, where two major styles stand out depending on the region:

  • that of the center of the island with the royal cities of Solo, Banyumas and Yogyakarta;
  • that of the north coast represented by the towns of Pekalongan, Cirebon and Lasem.

We also find the styles of Pelambang and Jambi, two regions of Indonesia that have been influenced by Javanese. Batik is present throughout the lives of Indonesians: we find Batik specially decorated for births, bereavements or to attend special events such as weddings, theater, artistic performances. There are also Batiks for pregnant women, while there are much more sober Batiks with patterns suitable for everyday life, which are frequently worn in professional or university settings.

The delicacy and finesse of the Batik makes the fabrics very attractive. Sometimes simpler, sometimes very elaborate, the patterns are generally composed of small very round dots, which, aligned next to each other, form lines, flowers, organic shapes, and represent symbols linked to local culture or to local history.

Source: Waxed: Batik from Java, Dallas Museum of Art
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