Wednesday, January 6, 2010

East Jakarta School Breaks Batik Record

Rain washed over the yard at Sevilla International School in Pulo Mas, East Jakarta, on Saturday. But it was not enough to dampen the spirits of students anticipating a visit from the Indonesian Museum of Records (better known by its acronym, MURI).

More than a thousand people had gathered to try and break the MURI record for the most people drawing batik designs in wax simultaneously.

The event was named “Pagelaran Batik 1,500 Canting” (“Batik Show of 1,500 Canting”), after the small pens used to apply the wax for batik, called canting, and the school’s target of 1,500 participants.

The previous record was set in 2007, with 1,130 participants.

Based on a manual count by a MURI official, Sevilla International School broke the earlier record by more than 500 participants, as 1,780 people joined in the batik-making process.

“This event is one way we can show our love for batik, as well being an effort to raise the younger generation’s awareness of batik as part of the internationally recognized cultural heritage,” said Sudhamek AWS, president director of the school.

Batik was recently recognized by the United Nations’ cultural branch, Unesco, as part of the world’s intangible heritage.

“The point of this event is not merely to get the certificate from MURI,” Sudhamek said. “It’s about how to not only preserve batik, which has been around for thousands of years, but also to develop it further through the young generation.”

Robertus Budi Setiono, the school’s chief operational officer, said batik studies would be incorporated into the school’s curriculum, “so that the students can know and appreciate batik from an early age.”

Saturday’s participants comprised students at the school, ranging from kindergarten to high school, as well as their friends and families.

Dressed in uniform white T-shirts, they sat on the bare concrete or stretches of grass throughout the school working on their designs.

The batik makers were divided into groups of 10. Each participant was given a canting and a square of cloth marked out with a classic batik design.

A total of 150 meters of cloth and 30 kilograms of wax were distributed during the event, with each group sharing a pot of wax with an open flame.

Participants didn’t try their hand at dipping their cloth squares into colored dyes, which was probably a good thing as a big mess might have ensued.

Dealing with the wax alone was a messy business. On a number of occasions a school official armed with a fire extinguisher was called upon to put out a fire that had started in one of the wax pots.

But aside from that, the event went smoothly.

A fifth-grader, who did not want to give his name because he was “shy,” was completely absorbed in the process, clutching a canting in his right hand and an almost-finished cloth in the left.

He said it was his first shot at making batik. Asked how he felt about the canting process, the boy responded, “It’s hard, but fun!”

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