Pieces of brown west Indian mahogany bark, indigofera leaves, a canting, and other tools of batik-making sat on a corner.

Colourful pesisir-style batik, darker-dyed pedalaman-style batik and more beautiful batik items were hung around the room as Jultin Kartasasmita, director of YBI, mentioned that this year’s Gelar Batik Nusantara (GBN) will run from June 7 to 11 at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan.

Held once every two years since 1996 by Yayasan Batik Indonesia, GBN is more than just a marketplace that connects batik merchants, artisans, buyers and collectors. This year’s event focuses on the beauty of natural dyes, which will be explored in talks about its types, quality and its place in the global marketplace.

Lessons on creating natural dyes and drawing batik patterns will also be available free of charge for the public. “Batik Fashion Week at the end of GBN is a must-see show, in which rising and established designers will showcase their batik creations,” said Jultin.

Another exciting event is listening to the batik-drawn guitar using traditional techniques—listed in the Indonesian World Records Museum (MURI) last year.

Even beyond new mediums, batik styles have bloomed outside their indigenous region, including the Western New Guinean batik featuring motifs of the bird of paradise and the tifa drum.  “I welcome and encourage other cultures that originally didn’t have batik but wish to create one,” Jultin said. “But they cannot forget their own culture; instead they should incorporate it into their own batik.”

Developing, preserving and building batik— Indonesia’s Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, declared in 2009—along with its industry is YBI’s mission. YBI started in 1994 as non-profit that builds bridges for batik lovers, collectors, artisans and merchants to work together with the government.

Although batik is the pride of Indonesian heritage, such an organisation didn’t exist until the Ministry of Industry and a group of batik lovers asked Jultin to create one. “My mum was a batik-seller who bought  pieces from the artisans directly and sold it to family and friends,” said Jultin. “I’m used to seeing and touching batiks, though for long I haven’t done much with them until my appointment.”

When she was first appointed as YBI’s director, Jultin didn’t have enough confidence to carry out its missions; thankfully, the members are always ready to help her out. “I also found out that with batik, you learn a lot as time passes by, and you see more types of batik around Indonesia,” Jultin said.

As her love for batik grew stronger, Jultin started collecting pieces from Bali to Padang, Borneo, Western New Guinean and many other regions.

From Jultin’s vast collection, the West Java Bank approached her to publish a book on the types of batik in West Java.  Entitled Dunia Batik Seorang Jultin, the book was successfully published in 2012. 

 “If I were to be sponsored to write another book on batik,” Jultin said, “I would like to go deeper about batik’s richness.” For now, she is in the process of identifying her collection, which comes not only from her own purchase but also from others.

“Every time a GBN-seller who hasn’t sold much approaches me and ask that I buy some, how could I refuse?” she said. She added that, she wishes that someday, batik artisans will live prosperously and their works will be well appreciated.

“For example, when buyers browse, don’t just look at it in passing and say, ‘Oh, it’s too expensive,’ without knowing the love, creativity and labour behind each piece,” said Jultin. “Batik should be placed, appreciated and prized in the same way as Indonesian paintings as opposed to pricing it cheaply— and technology could help level out the playing field.”

Technology for Jultin means the way batik is produced and introduced. As printed batikpatterned textiles or stamped batik requires less production time than batik tulis, this is the way to mass-produce batik, as uniforms for example.

“However, there should be regulations about importing foreign-made batik-patterned textiles and preference to using local-made printed or stamped batik,” she said.

Social media is the other technology that is being used to introduce and learn about batik, which, thanks to designers and influencers, now crosses all fashions and occasions. “By wearing batik more often, at both casual and formal events, people will come to love and be intrigued by batik,” said Jultin.

“Ultimately, I wish for the rich philosophical meanings in each batik to be preserved and to move on along with the times, such as through the Internet or via live events like the GBN.”

(Text by: Edith Emeralda; Photography: Irwan Kurnia)

Tags: Batik, Gelar Batik Nusantara