Indonesian representatives throughout the world use every event to promote the country’s diverse culture and its philosophical, cultural and historical values through promoting batik, its signature product and most famous Indonesian textile.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and other delegates have indirectly helped to promote batik at the UN headquarters in New York. Guterres and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had met there, where they were attending the Indonesia-led open debate on peacekeeping operations last month.
To her surprise when Retno entered the Security Council chamber to start the meeting, she saw at least a dozen participants wearing batik shirts.
Besides the UN secretary-general, other delegates wearing batik included UN representatives from China, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, the Ivory Coast, Peru and the United States.
"They made me feel like our countries have even closer ties to each other. I was honored to see that," she said.
The batik shirts that the delegates were wearing were from their personal collections. Some delegates said that the clothings were gifts from the Indonesian delegation in New York, while others had acquired the garments as souvenirs when they attended conferences in Indonesia.
Guterres was wearing the same batik shirt he had been given during the 2018 International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings in Bali, the Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said.
Indonesia is a land of diverse culture and there exists a tremendous variety of colorful art forms, with batik being one of the most popular Indonesian arts.
The word batik originates from the Javanese “tik”, and means to dot.
The art of decorating cloth in this way, using wax and dye, has been practiced for centuries in Indonesia and has become a wonderful creative medium, increasingly popular across the world. Batik has been added to the Representative List of UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritage by recognizing Indonesia as the origin and home of this exclusive art form.
To promote batik, the Indonesian Embassy in Islamabad recently held a coffee morning, entitled “Nurturing Friendship by Cross Culture Understanding”, featuring batik and gamelan musical ensemble workshops, which were intended to take the participants on a trip through the ancient traditions of batik and gamelan to explore and experience Indonesia’s rich and diverse art and cultural heritage.
The large number of guests were mostly women from the diplomatic communities and from the general public.
To conduct the workshop, the embassy had invited two batik experts, Mrs. Fonna Melania and Mr. Koswara Kusuma from the Sukabumi Region of Java Island to teach the basics of this ancient art form to the participants.
In addition to targeting Africa as a potential market for batik, Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa Salman Al Farisi said that Indonesian batik designers and entrepreneurs must also consider various criteria, such as garment sizes, motifs, and colors that need to be adjusted to the tastes and standards in Africa.
In South Africa, a number of local designers have produced many types of clothing from batik-like fabrics, however, Indonesian batik, with its detailed motifs and various colors, still remains in high demand, he said in a statement to Antara.
Also, the love of the late President Nelson Mandela for Indonesian batik is not a new story. Mandela was long-identified with the long-sleeved batik shirt, and the people of South Africa refer to batik as the "Madiba Shirt". However, batik in South Africa is only worn by men.
To strengthen the Mandela legacy, and to increase awareness about batik as an alternative material for women’s clothing, the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria sought to promote traditional Indonesian textiles by holding batik fashion shows and mini-bazaars displaying Indonesian products at the ambassador’s residence in Pretoria, South Africa on Sunday.
The batik fashion show presented a variety of Siger batik from Lampung, which was officially inaugurated by the Chairperson of the Indonesian Women’s Association (DWP) of the Embassy in Pretoria, Mrs. Umi Mahmudah Al Farisi. In her speech, Ms. Umi Mahmudah said that this event was aimed to commemorate the 25 years of friendly diplomatic relations between Indonesia and South Africa, noting that batik is one of the knots that holds together the friendship between Indonesia and South Africa.
The fashion show displayed 15 pieces of clothing, bags, and accessories made by Roemah Batik Siger Lampung. In a sequence entitled, Colors of the Island, the first five outfits that were exhibited featured loose fabrics combined with Lampung-style Woven Coulotte. These clothes can be worn casually, as well as turned into more formal wear combined with shirts.
In the second half of the fashion show, entitled “Arts-Culturation”, batik with Sembagi Patterns were displayed. Initially, Sembagi was a fabric brought from India. Because of the cultural exchange, Sembagi Fabric became a typical southern type of Sumatra fabric worn at traditional events.
In this sequence, the Sembagi Fabric patterns have been adapted into batik. The clothing in this sequence are semi-formal, which are easily combined with plain-colored clothing. The third demonstration of Swarnadwipa presented batik clothing coated in golden colors, which is to be worn for formal events at night because of its luxurious and glamorous look.
Located in Lampung, Sumatera island, Siger Batik House was first established as an institution for Batik Painting courses that involved housewives, teenagers who had left school, or people with disabilities in the neighbourhood. Siger Batik House later developed to become a middle level enterprise whose masterpieces are globally acknowledged.
Batik making demonstration
The DWP of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Bandar Seri Begawan also held a batik making demonstration. The event was the second program of DWP, after the Tourism Promotion Trip to Bali in late March 2019, in which several foreign ambassadors' wives meeting in Brunei Darussalam, from Myanmar, Germany and France, participated.
Ecoprint batik-making is somewhat different from the usual process. Instead of wax, it uses natural dyes derived from the plants themselves, while the pattern or design follows the shapes of leaves that are chosen and arranged in an artistic way, said Mrs. Nani Sujatmiko as the Chairperson of the DWP.
Batik fabric produced with the ecoprint system looks more natural, both in terms of pattern and color. In addition, ecoprint batik is more exclusive and original, since it cannot be reproduced and imitated. Furthermore, the manufacturing materials are environmentally friendly and do not cause environmental pollution.
Ambassador of Indonesia to Brunei Darussalam, Sujatmiko, who was also present at the demonstration of ecoprint batik, stated that although the idea and method of creating ecoprint batik did not originate in Indonesia, Indonesia's abundant natural resources used as batik materials had the potential to support and develop batik production and contribute to the nation's economic growth.
In addition, the workshop was intended to invite other countries with the same natural resources to join in manufacturing goods that are beneficial to their citizens, while preserving the environment, Ambassador Sujatmiko said.
The participants and guests praised the Indonesian Women Associations for their passion and hard work, allowing the guests to become part of the cultural extravaganza.
What the Indonesian representatives have done is to support the government's push to assist small industries in the batik sectors, as they play an increasingly important role in the national economy and contribute to the country’s foreign exchange.