After years of effort, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik, as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2, 2009. In return of the acknowledgment, UNESCO demanded Indonesia to preserve their heritage. This becomes quite important issue due to so many cultural dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia about the origin of some cultural heritage in the last 5 years. The decision is described in Decision 4.COM 13.44, as follows:
R1: Indonesian Batik has a rich symbolism related to social status, local community, nature, history and cultural heritage; provides Indonesian people with a sense of identity and continuity as an essential component of their life from birth to death; and continues to evolve without losing its traditional meaning;
R2: Inscription on the Representative List would contribute to ensuring the visibility of intangible cultural heritage at the local, national and international levels, raising awareness about its value and motivating practitioners, in particular younger generations, to continue its practice;
R3: Various actors such as governmental and non-governmental institutions and community-based associations have jointly carried out safeguarding measures including awareness-raising, capacity-building and educational activities, and intend to continue these efforts;
R4: The communities concerned were widely involved in the nomination process through field research in the communities; they also participated in the file preparation team and in a series of seminars to discuss the file contents, and provided their free, prior and informed consent;
R5: The element is inscribed on the inventory of cultural elements maintained by the Department of Culture and Tourism.
The techniques, symbolism and culture surrounding hand-dyed cotton and silk garments known as Indonesian Batik permeate the lives of Indonesians from beginning to end: infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck, and the dead are shrouded in funerary batik. Clothes with everyday designs are worn regularly in business and academic settings, while special varieties are incorporated into celebrations of marriage and pregnancy and into puppet theatre and other art forms. The garments even play the central role in certain rituals, such as the ceremonial casting of royal batik into a volcano. Batik is dyed by proud craftspeople who draw designs on fabric using dots and lines of hot wax, which resists vegetable and other dyes and therefore allows the artisan to colour selectively by soaking the cloth in one colour, removing the wax with boiling water and repeating if multiple colours are desired. The wide diversity of patterns reflects a variety of influences, ranging from Arabic calligraphy, European bouquets and Chinese phoenixes to Japanese cherry blossoms and Indian or Persian peacocks. Often handed down within families for generations, the craft of batik is intertwined with the cultural identity of the Indonesian people and, through the symbolic meanings of its colours and designs, expresses their creativity and spirituality.
Batik is an ancient art form. Discoveries show it already existed in Egypt in the 4th century BCE, where it was used to wrap mummies; linen was soaked in wax, and scratched using a sharp tool. In Asia, the technique was practiced in China during the T'ang dynasty (618-907), and in India and Japan during the Nara period (645-794). In Africa it was originally practiced by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, Soninke and Wolof in Senegal.
In Java, Indonesia, batik predates written records. GP. Rouffaer argues that the technique might have been introduced during the 6th or 7th century from India or Sri Lanka. On the other hand, JLA. Brandes (a Dutch archeologist) and F.A. Sutjipto (an Indonesian archeologist) believe it is a tradition native to regions such as Toraja, Flores, Halmahera, and Papua. It is noteworthy that these areas were not directly influenced by Hinduism but do have an old tradition of making batik.
GP. Rouffaer also reported that the gringsing pattern was already known by the 12th century in Kediri, East Java. He concluded that such a delicate pattern could only be created by means of the canting (also spelled tjanting or tjunting) tool. He proposed that the canting was invented in Java around that time.
Batik was mentioned in the 17th century Malaysian literature, Sulalatus Salatin. The legend goes when Laksamana Hang Nadim was ordered by Sultan Mahmud to sail to India to get 140 pieces of serasah cloth (batik) with 40 types of flowers depicted on each. Unable to find any that fulfilled the requirements, he made up his own. On his return unfortunately, his ship sank and he only managed to bring four pieces, earning displeasure from the Sultan.
In Europe, the technique is described for the first time in the History of Java, published in London in 1817 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who had been a British governor for the island, during the period when Napoleon occupied Holland. In 1873 the Dutch merchant Van Rijekevorsel gave the pieces he collected during a trip to Indonesia to the ethnographic museum in Rotterdam. And it was indeed starting from the early 19th century that the art of batik really grew finer and reached its golden period. Exposed to the Exposition Universelle at Paris in 1900, the Indonesian batik impressed the public and the artisans.
Due globalization and industrialization, which introduced automated techniques, new breeds of batik, known as 'batik cap' and batik print emerged, and the traditional batik which incorporates the hand written wax-resist dyeing technique is known now as 'batik tulis'. At the same time Indonesian immigrants to Malaysia and Singapore brought Indonesian batik with them.
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