Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Unesco’s recognition of Indonesian batik

Unesco’s recognition of Indonesian batik as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage seems to have reignited passion for the designs, with more and more people donning it to show the pride they feel in the country.

But then again, how well do we really know batik? Last Thursday to Saturday, PT Batik Danar Hadi, a leading producer of batik clothing in Indonesia, tried to help improve that knowledge.

On Thursday, a high tea fashion show was organized at the Grand Sahid Jaya, Jakarta. Along with the fashion show, 200 pieces from the batik collection of H Santosa Doellah, the founder of Danar Hadi, were also showcased in an exhibition at the Solo Lounge of the hotel.

The rest of the collection, which contains nearly 10,000 pieces of rare batik, is currently stored at the House of Danar Hadi museum in Surakarta, Central Java.

“The exhibition titled ‘The History of Indonesian Batik,’ aims to introduce and educate Indonesian people about the various motifs and patterns influenced by the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and other foreign cultures that came to Indonesia,” said Diana Santosa, the managing director of Danar Hadi.

Before high tea, guests were offered guided tours of the collection to learn about the historical conditions and cultural exchanges that influenced particular motifs and patterns.

One style that was influenced by Chinese traders, for example, incorporates Chinese mythological creatures, such as dragons, phoenixes and quilin , a type of Chinese unicorn, in its designs.

The Djawa Hokokai batik, produced between 1942 and 1945 during the Japanese occupation, depicts Japanese flowers combined with the traditional pattern of parang (long knife) and kawung (geometrical circular pattern).

Dutch women in the early 19th century preferred bright floral patterns with bird and butterflies.

“Usually, people just follow the trends without really understanding the meaning or history behind it,” said Ayu Tresna, who attended the event. “With this exhibition, we can begin to understand the history of batik and the intricate process involved in making batik.”

Shanti Setyaningrum, the public relations manager of Grand Sahid Jaya, said that “in the old days, batik was only used for uniforms or traditional clothing.

“But now, we can see batik in cocktail dresses and formal jackets. I hope this program can help to spread the popularity of batik in today’s fashions,” she added.

The first day of the show featured 18 women’s hand-painted and hand-stamped batik pieces designed by Ainun Nisyah, Priyo Octaviano and Denny Wirawan.

Ainun Nisyah, Danar Hadi’s in-house fashion designer, showcased modified kebaya (an Indonesian traditional blouse) with knee-length sarongs. Using hand-woven batik of brilliant colors, typical of the Cirebon area Central Java, Ainun’s dresses had a feminine yet casual flair that does not look out of place in formal occasions.

“Cirebon’s batik is usually more bright and colorful,” Diana said. “The water in the coastal area is salty, which brings out the color in each cloth.”

Priyo Octaviano, a young Indonesian fashion designer, presented hand-woven and chiffon blouses with bold, intricate patterns of Parang Sarpo, a batik motif created by artists of the Mangkunegaran palace in Solo, Central Java, which were combined with miniskirts or fitted trousers.

“He uses a deconstructive method to design his clothes,” Diana said. “He puts the fabric onto a mannequin and starts cutting and sewing right away. That way, there will never be two designs the same.”

Glamor seemed to be the keynote of Denny Wirawan’s fashion style. He transformed silk and chiffon with patterns of Djawa Hokokai and Lokcan, a Chinese influenced motif, into flowing blouses accentuated with oversized bows, and elegant empire-cut dresses. Gemstone and bead appliques on the neckline give a luxurious feel to the pieces.

Actress Christine Hakim, who also attended the high tea, said she was impressed with the fashion show.

“Batik lovers like me are being presented with many more choices. We can now see that batik is not only for traditional kebaya. Fashion shows like this one help to convey the fact that batik has now taken various styles and designs that are more casual and comfortable for daily wear,” she said.

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