About Indonesian Batiks

There are several batik makers in Canada - including those in and close to our little community in Perth Ontario. Many Canadians have been exposed to batik as part of craft and tie-dye projects. However, batik is probably best known in Canada among quilters. Having said that, batik is not part of our historical/cultural tradition and Indonesian batik is generally not well known. Europe has had more exposure, particularly in Holland, Germany and France – partly for historical/colonial reasons and partly because of a broader, more international interest in fashion and textiles.

In Indonesia, batik is deeply rooted in its history and culture, For several hundreds of years, before batik came into wider use in the 1800's, it was produced only by women of royal families. Batik was worn to communicate status or one’s occupation. Special designs were worn by masters of certain crafts and other designs only by royalty. At one time, court protocol was determined by the pattern of one's batik.

Batik is a subject of study by academics from historical, anthropological and sociological perspectives. Many books are written about batik – from academic studies to coffee table photographic books. Various batik motifs are topics of studies in themselves. Batik is everywhere. There are Batik museums. Several floors of a shopping center in Jakarta sell only batik products along with other department stores. Although we concentrate on Java, batik is produced in several provinces outside Java.

Most Indonesians now wear Western clothing. However many also wear batik as a fashion statement and for formal attire. For men, a batik shirt is as equally formal as a suit and tie. It is particularly popular for making clothing such as shirts, dresses, skirts and blouses because it’s beautiful and versatile.

The country celebrates the National Batik Day annually on October 2. On this day, Indonesians wear batik in honour of this ancient tradition. Many civil servants in Java wear batik once a week. The Central Java administration supports batik and has made a policy requiring all civil servants in the province to wear batik every Wednesday and Friday, Bogor, a large city in West Java, has introduced batik uniforms for civil servants. Many private sector companies require that their employees wear batik uniforms.

Indonesian batik has already taken its place in the contemporary international fashion industry, the world of haute couture, as well as being used in accessories such as handbags. Many popular figures have been seen proudly wearing batik, from Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, and from Beyoncé Knowles to Jessica Alba. Several internationally renowned designers from European countries, Thailand and the USA include batik in their design collections.