The origin of…Batik

“Love is like a batik created from many emotional colors, it is a fabric whose pattern and brightness may vary.” Diane Ackerman

Post 85 Batik

Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. The wax is applied with a canting, a small copped cupped spout with which you can “draw” the wax on the cloth, or with a cap, a copper stamp. After the wax is applied the cloth is soaked in one color, leaving a pattern where the wax was applied. The wax is removed with boiling water and the whole process is repeated if more than one color is wanted. This technique was already used in Egypt, with the oldest known batik dating from the 5th century AD, and in Asia in China during the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD). In central Africa the Yoruba tribe of Southern Nigeria and Senegal has been using resist dyeing using cassava and rice paste for centuries. It is not sure where batik was invented, but many researchers believe it was brought to Asia from the Indian subcontinent.
Batik is made in various countries, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Nigeria, with Indonesia having the most well known batik (in 2009 Indonesian batik was designated a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the Unesco) where the art of batik is most highly developed (especially in the island of Java).

Batik kraton (Javanese court batik, also called inland batik) is the oldest form of batik tradition known in Java and consists of the colors like white, indigo and soga (brown-yellow color made from the bark of the soga tree). Patterns have been influenced by different religions. From the Hindu-Buddhist era in Java come stylized forms from nature, using rounded, flowing lines rather than realistic depictions of flowers or leaves. Muslims, who came to Java in the 1500s, are not allowed to portray any living creature, leading to more geometric designs.
Coastal batik is produced in numerous areas of northern Java and Madura and has vibrant colors and patterns inspired by different cultures as a result of maritime trading.

The most traditional type of batik is batik tulis (written batik) and it is made with the use of the canting. Wax is applied on both sides and dipped in a dye bath three to four times.
Some batik patterns in Indonesia are symbolic and designed for and worn at certain specific occasions, like designs for brides and grooms. Some patterns are very exclusive and can only be worn by royalties.
Although there are batik patterns for special occasions, batik is very much part of everyday life in Indonesia and can be found on the streets worn by both men and women.

1. a fabric printed by an Indonesian method of hand-printing textiles by coating with wax the parts not to be dyed; also : the method itself
2. a design executed in batik (source: Merriam Webster).

Batik comes from Javanese amba, to write, and titik, dot. Another theory suggests it comes from a hypothetical Proto-Austronesian root *beCík, to tattoo.

Batik in other languages:
Dutch: de batik
Spanish: el batik
Italian: il batik


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