Search This Blog


Contact Form


Email *

Message *


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pekalongan - European Fairy Tales


Towards the end of the 19th century with the expansion of Dutch colonial power, completely new batik designs with naturalistic images began to appear.  The themes of these batik designs included boats, trains, card games, fans, bicycles, bank-notes and coins, and European fairy-tales.  The European fairy-tales which were popular as themes for batik designs included Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty but Red Riding Hood was especially popular.  Fairy- tales were popular as batik designs from around 1900 until 1920.  The Indo-European made versions of these themes were also made in Javanese and Chinese workshops, with interesting variations occurring.

Please click on all images to enlarge.

Detail 1- Red Riding Hood (Roodkapje) theme was very popular as a theme for European and Indo-European batik-makers from about 1900 to 1920.  These themes were also adopted by the Javanese and Chinese batik-makers with some very interesting variations in interpretation occurring.  The Chinese maker of this cloth has chosen to supplement this design with the integration of fish and prawns into the borders of the work as well as two lobsters into the kepala!
[Photo Mick Richards].

The variations that occur in the batik designs with the Red Riding Hood (Roodkapji) theme are many.  This does not depend on the maker being Indo-European or Chinese or Javanese.  Eliza van Zuylen produced works with a particular theme that differed from others she had produced with that theme and differed again to others executed by her colleagues, with the same theme.  Perhaps this may have been an attempt by each batik-maker to personalise the design as many batik workshops including van Zuylen's, worked from large drawings purchased from freelance artists.  Hence all workshops who purchased the large drawings began with identical patterns.  The large drawings were used as the support for the wax tracings.

The background of this cloth is decorated with a classic Javanese motif, the banji (Detail 1).  The basis of this motif is the swastika.  The word 'banji' is of Chinese origin and carries symbolic meaning for the Chinese of happiness, wealth and prosperity.  There is certainly a feeling of happiness as the wolf strides along-side Little Red Riding Hood who is carrying a bunch of flowers. 

The format of kain sarungs had gradually changed over time.  Initially the kepala bisected the badan then later it was placed at one end of the cloth and finally in Indo-European designed cloths the kepala was placed at one hand's width from the end of the cloth.  The Chinese batik-maker of this cloth has adopted the Indo-European format as seen below and in Detail 2.

The borders at the top and bottom of this cloth are symmetrical. The same design is used in the outer edges of the kepala.  The bow border consists of unrecognisable flowering creepers which have been interwoven with fish and prawns.  The drawing style of the large lobsters in the kepala and the fish and prawns in the borders reminds me of the Indramayu style except in this work, the flow of line is not as free.  There is an outer edge of small vertical lines at both the top and bottom.  These vertical lines appear to be further apart then seen in earlier examples.

Pekalongan, 1900 - 1920
Skirt cloth kain sarung
Cotton, synthetic dyes; batik tulis
Greg Roberts & Ian Reed Collection
[Photo Mick Richards]

Note the variations in the colour of each wolf with the left and right wolf being blue and the wolf in the middle is red.  Also the batik-maker has varied the colours used in the hem line of Red Riding Hood's dress: again the left and right are the same colours and the middle one is different.  An aubergine colour applied by hand over red, has also been used sparingly and with no consistency- on the odd flower or leaf, and all prawn heads.  It is as if it was a new colour that had to be utilised by the batik-maker!


Detail 2- kepala with diagonal bands- the use of diagonal bands, dlorong, in the kepala was one of the decorative innovations introduced by the Indo-European designers at the turn of the 19th century.  The central panel within the diagonal band of the kepala consists of only plant forms- creepers with cream stems and tendrils, blue leaves and red flower buds all placed on a green background.  The large central band has three smaller diagonal bands on each side.  The centre band of these three smaller diagonal bands are the more dominate because of the use of the cream colour and its width being double that of the other two. 
Intriguingly, the design of the two red triangle shapes each side of the central diagonal band, consists of a large lobster interwoven with flowering creepers.  For me, this combination of marine and plant forms is very unusual!  The design and use of colour and line in both the kepala and borders almost disguises the marine forms.   
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 3-  apart from the wolf displaying his vicious teeth the scene seems one of happiness.  Birds and butterflies flutter above her amongst the flowering trees.  In Eliza van Zuylen, Liem Metzelaar and other Indo-European batik-makers' versions of this theme the trees were usually more European in style and rarely were flowering.  The slender roots of each tree reach down into the soil unlike many of the European designs where the roots were thick and heavy.   Her clothing and the basket she carries on her left arm, are European in style.  The Peranakan Chinese batik-maker of this cloth has combined both Chinese and European design elements.  The actual design of the tree that is, the placement of branches and leaves, does have similarities to one produced by Lies van Zuylen on a kain panjang in 1900 (Batik from the north coast of Java- Fabric of Enchantment, Catalogue no. 34, p. 140).

It is interesting to compare the design of the flowering tree in this batik with those in the two earlier posts.  All three batiks were produced by Peranakan Chinese batik-makers and have been influenced by the buketan style.
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 4- highlights the use of the banji pattern as background. The banji pattern (its basis is the swastika)  is the oldest type of ornamental motif used for batik.  Red Riding Hood is dressed in European designed clothes and carries a basket over her left arm, which is also European influenced in designed.  This section of the border highlights the incorporation of  sea-creatures including fish and prawns, into the floral border. The fish and prawns are not immediately recognisable as they have been cleverly interwoven with the floral elements.
[Photo Mick Richards] 

Detail 5- this cloth could be given as a present to a young woman expressing the hope that she will be happy in marriage.  The tree is certainly full of life, the birds are singing, the butterflies flutter freely and it is a rich red that holds the work together.
[Photo Mick Richards]  


Maxwell, Robyn J.  Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade, and Transformation.  Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd, 2003 design and National Gallery of Australia and Robyn Maxwell, 2003 text.

Heringa, Rens and Veldhuisen, Harmen C.  Fabric of Enchantment- Batik from the North Coast of Java.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Weatherhill, Inc.,1996.

Van Roojen, Pepin.  Batik Design.  Amsterdam: The Pepin Press, 2001.

See you again soon and as always, I would love to hear your comments, thank you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pekalongan - Batik Belanda - Buketan Design Style

When the Dutch came to Indonesia, first as traders of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century and two centuries later as rulers, their presence rapidly became visible in new batik motifs and colours.  Floral decoration, for example, became very popular, and old motifs were mixed with new ones to create a new style of batik: batik Belanda, Dutch batik.

I have structured my analysis of this intriguing work into three sections:

(a) European and Indo-European Influences- what were the key influences of these batik entrepreneurs on Pekalongan batik design style from around 1840?

(b) Analysis of the Work- what are the European design influences adopted by its Peranakan Chinese makers, in this work and when was it made?

(c) The Response of the Peranakan Chinese batik entrepreneurs to batik Belanda and how their responses were incorporated into this work. 

(a) European and Indo-European Influences

In the second half of 19th century Pekalongan emerged as the most important production centre of European and Indo-European batiks, known as batik Belanda.  There were a number of important changes initiated by these designers which resulted in an uniquely new Pekalongan design format, the buketan- large and elaborate bouquets of European stemmed flowers in the badan (the body or main field of a batik cloth) and for a surung, a floral kepala.  The bouquet design (buketan), has been celebrated as being distinctively batik Pasisir ever sense.  Around 1900, the design of large bouquets of flowers surrounded by butterflies and birds was often depicted on a plain background.  This style became the most important fashion for Europeans and Indo-Europeans. These batik tulis works were of exceptional workmanship displaying an astounding palette of up to seven colours and canting work of intensely fine detail.  These works were highly prized by the wealthy and the possession of such communicated one's Dutch links.

In 1845 the first European batik workshop was opened by Carolina von Franquemont, at the age of 23. Her workshop was on the slopes of volcanic Mount Ungaran near the Ungaran River in Semarang.

In the 1870s when the colonial economy became accessible for non-governmental commercial initiatives, other Dutch and Indo-European batik workshops followed.

Highly successful Indo-European designers in Pekalongan included Lien Metzelaar, A.J.F. Jans and the best known and most influential, Lies van Zuylen who worked from the late 19th century until the 1940s. The practice of signing batik tulis became fashionable among the Indo-Europeans during the 1860s in Pekalongan. A signature indicated the origin of the workshop and emphasised the quality and originality of the work.

(b) Analysis of the Work 

[Please click on all images to enlarge]

Detail 1.  The buketan style was soon adopted by the Peranakan Chiniese entrepreneurs.  In this work, instead of a large bouquet of European flowers surrounded by birds and butterflies as seen in the work of Indo-Europeans, the Peranakan Chinese entrepreneur and waxer of this work, have been extremely free and fluid in their interpretation of the buketan motif.  The large bouquet of flowers has been replaced by a very sturdy flowering plant growing in a marsh, surrounded by a smaller version of the plant, grasses and gaily depicted birds and butterflies.  This work is a celebration and what it lacks in intricate craftsmanship, is made up by its joyous spirit.
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 2.  This image highlights the range of borders used in the work.  The wavy booh  (bow) inner border that completely surrounds the badan is not symmetrical.  The motif of freely drawn red and cream flowers in the booh which runs  along the lower edge and at the two short ends differ to that in the border along the top edge.  The motif of small flowers and leaves  in this border are more compressed and finer in its detail.  Along the upper and lower  long edges, there is an outer edge (seret) consisting of small vertical stripes, which depict a fence.  At each of the two shorter ends of the cloth there are four borders.  The outer border is made up of small triangles (said to depict arrow heads) which are similar to to those in a kepala.  The 'verticle fence' and the 'arror heads' are said to protect the wearer from unwanted influences while the booh borders are said to provide protection to the badan- the garden of paradise- from outside inferior influences.
[Photo Mick Richards]

This striking and beautiful work, a kain panjang from our collection, has intrigued and amazed us from the moment we first saw it.  It was not only its visual strength of both the motifs and the colours but also it sense of joyous celebration, that caught our attention.  The decision of the waxer (pembatik) to enhance and give all major and minor motifs in the badan a 'halo' effect also struck an accord with us. This effect has been achieved by continuous mark-making around the outline of each motif (details 3 & 5 highlight the use of this technique).  We had not first hand, seen this technique utilised before.  As a result the cloth displays a wonderful exuberance as well as a sense of drama.  There is nothing dainty about the work and it certainly does not display the technical intricacy the Indo-European and Peranakan Chinese are famous for.    

While the composition references the bouquet design (buketan), the drama and boldness of the motifs as well as the sense of freedom in the placement and depiction of the plants (growing in marshy land), their flowers, birds, and butterflies suggests to me there are other influences at play here.  Perhaps it was not made in a Peranakan Chinese workshop!  The outline-shape of the flowers suggests they may be carnations but these strong-stemmed plants may represent the 'tree-of-life' motif.  The motifs are awkwardly drawn and placed against a rich red coloured background that is sparsely dotted with outlines of small leaf shapes.  This style of drawing certainly has not been influenced by the flowing and curving lines of Art Nouveu which had been introduced to the north coast by the Europeans but it certainly signifies happiness, joy, and flourishing life.  The limited use of tananah motifs (filler motifs for the background), may reference the use of clear backgrounds introduced by the Indo-Europeans.

Detail 3.  Around 1900 the European and Indo-European entrepreneurs often depicted the buketan motif on a plain background.  The Peranakan Chinese maker of this cloth may have been influenced by this development, leaving much of the rich red background free of filler motifs (tanahan).  
[Photo Ian Reed]
The designer along with the batikker, has made little use of isen (filler motifs within each motif) except for various combinations of dots including clusters of seven dots within the body of the flowers, birds and butterflies.  There is scarce use of tanahan (the small motifs used to fill the background).   While there is an overall sense of simplicity to the development of each element, for example, the stylisation in the drawing of the flowers, the work still has a strong sense of originality and inventiveness.
The colours and forms of the batik are very cheerful.  The design is composed of seven colours: two tones of red; two of blue; one ochre (sometimes referred to as soga Pekalongan); one cream; and the very unusual taupe colour of the feathery fern-like veins in the leaves on the four large plants.  The waxing of this fern-like effect along with some of that in the borders, is the most intricate in the work.

Detail 4.  This is an unusual use of a taupe colour set against the dark blue ground of the leaf.  The feathery fern-like veins heightens the sense of energy in this work.  The use of the mark-making process as an outline of each motif is clearly visible.  The batikker rather then apply a wax outline as part of the first waxing, has adopted the technique illustrated here.  The batikker has been given much freedom by the workshop owner, to express her own creativity as there are many variations in the waxing process.  This in itself, creates a mystique around the origins of this batik.  
[Photo Ian Reed]

Another indication of the cloth's age can be determined by its border designs. The badan of this cloth is surrounded by a booh (bow) which is not symmetrical: the same design exists on the lower edge of the cloth as well as its two ends.  Across the top edge the floral design of the booh is finer and more dense.  The booh appeared around 1900 and it was about this time that the second inner border, the pinggir, disappeared.  The small vertical stripes (the seret) remain on the outer edge of both the top and lower edges of the cloth.      
In the years between 1840 and 1940, batik Belanda underwent many changes in colour and style.  The Chinese operated workshops in Pekalongan in turn, also made major changes, and went onto influence batik making in near-by centres.
(c) Response of the Peranakan Chinese   

The new styles, decorative innovations and customs were soon adopted by Peranakan Chinese entrepreneurs as seen in the work, above and below.  The Peranakan adopted and popularised the bouquet design (buketan) of stemmed flowers with butterflies and birds against a clear background that was developed by the Indo-European batik makers, and adapted them with different colours and more complex isen and tananah (filler) motifs.(3) These works utilised rich colours including red and blue.  In the late 19th century and early 20th century some of the finest and most technically intricate examples of the batik process have been made in workshops operated by Peranakan Chinese.  Their work was considered superlative for its intense detail, rich colours, and fine workmanship.The Chinese made many contributions but an important one was the use of colours found in Chinese decorative arts, which is dominated by bright colours and to a lesser extent, pastel tints.  Pastel tints were made possible by the introduction of synthetic dyes and it was the Chinese workshops who were the first to use them.

A Peranakan Chinese inspired bouquet design (buketan) of four large flowering plants along-side four smaller versions of the plants surrounded by butterflies and birds which are set against a strong red background dotted randomly with small leaf shapes.
Pekalongan, late 19th century/early 20th century
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Cotton, natural dyes?, batik tulis
106.0 x 255.0 cm
Greg Roberts & Ian Reed Collection
[Photo Mick Richards]

Detail 5 [Photo Ian Reed]

Detail6 [Photo Ian Reed]


Djoemena, Nian S. Ungkapan Sehelai. Batik - Its Mystery and Meaning. Jakarta: Djambatan, 1986.

Heringa, Rens and Veldhuisen Harmen C. Fabric of Enchantment. Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles: County Museum of Arts, 1996. (Rens Heringa. Batik Pasisir as Mestizo Costume. 46 - 69.  I highly recommend this essay for anyone wishing to develop their knowledge and appreciation of the appearance and meaning of batik Pasisir).

Van Dartel, Daan.  Collectors Collected - Exploring Dutch colonial culture through the study of batik. Tropenmuseum Bulletin 369. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2005.

Ito, Fusami. Javanese Batik: Changing motifs and Techniques. Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, Tokyo University.

Van Roojen, Pepin. Batik Design. Amsterdam: The Pipin Press, 2001.

Chor Lin, Lee. Batik - Creating an Identity. Singapore: National Museum of Singapore and Editions Didier Millet, 2007.

Knight-Achjadi, Judi & Damais, Asmoro. Butterflies and Phoenixes - Chinese Inspirations in Indonesian Textile Arts.Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2006.

Tirta, Iwan. Batik - A Play of Light and Shades. Jakarta: Gaya Favorit Press, 1996.     

Detail 7.  Despite its many variations in style and waxing this cloth must have held great significance for the owner in order for it to still be in the excellent condition it is, after some 110 years.
[Photo Ian Reed]

After 110 years this beautiful batik is still cherished, loved and admired and it will live on to intrigue many, for centuries to come.

 Please Comment - I would love to know your thoughts about this work so in turn, we all can enrich our knowledge and appreciation of this intriguing work . Where does this work belong in the development of Pekalongan's rich batik tradition?


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Batik Road - Pekalongan - The Batik City

Firstly and importantly I wish to apologise to all those regular visitors to my Blog, for this being the first Post since 17 February, 2012.  Perhaps like some of you, I live with chronic pain, the result of occipital neuralgia to the left side of my head.  As I say to my friends, on the good days I Post and on the bad days I go to bed! 

My ongoing passion for batik from the north coast of Java, the Pasisir, is one of the things that brings balance to my life - thank you for returning.

Pekalongan has become one of our favourite batik destinations.  It certainly lives up to its name, Kota Batik, the Batik City of Indonesia.  By 1850 this port city was already an important batik centre and around 1860 Indo-European women began establishing batik workshops here.  More about this later but today it is the people we know like Zahir Widadi the former director of the Pekalongan Batik Museum and batik artists like Dudung Alie Syahbana, Sapuan and Liem Poo Hien and batik workshops like Wirokuto Batik, that make Pekalongan special for us.  Also  it  is Pekalongan's distinctive batik style and motifs that keeps drawing us back to this delightful city.  It was also here that the Japanese-inspired batik style known as Batik Djawa Hokokai developed during World War II.  These highly complex and extremely detailed designs were executed in an unusual range of colours.

Over the coming Posts we will meet these people and visit their workshops and see their work.  The initial Posts will highlight a number of antique works from Pekalongan, that are new additions to our collection.  I would be most grateful if you have any insights into any of these works, to please leave your comments.  Your knowledge will benefit many of us who are still developing our own understanding and appreciation of these magical cloths. 

(Please click to enlarge all images)

Pekalongan, Java, cc. 1890s
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Cotton, natural dyes; batik tulis
[Mick Richards Photography]
(Detail of above - click to enlarge)
(Detail of above - click to enlarge)

This exquisite batik with its perfect repetition of the tableau, closely resembles batik with the Taman Terate or lotus garden theme.  This theme was introduced through European magazines when Japanese art was in fashion in Europe.  Mrs. Lien Metzelaar was the first to introduce the theme into her work.  The theme was adopted by many manufactures including makers of Chinese origin, as with this batik.  Instead of egrets or cranes standing in ponds or swamps here we have five cheerful ducks parading across the landscape.  Separating each bird are free flowing plant forms topped with cascades of flowers, perhaps wisteria.  The cascading flowers are interspersed with flying swallows and butterflies.The white ground is embellished with wavy lines running diagonally from left to right.  In the foreground beneath the tufts of grass and flowers are lines running horizontally across these wavy lines of the back ground, giving the work depth.  A sense of depth is also achieved by placing the base of each plant behind the ducks. The use of the darker blue in the border also gives the work a sense of enclosure.

The outer border on the top and bottom horizontals consist of: a secret, the rows of small vertical lines; and the wider border that surrounds the central field, the badan, is decorated with flowers leaves.  Each end consists of three borders (from inner to outer): the inner border of flowers and leaves; the centre border, the pingger, which is the same width as the secret, contains repeated small diamond shapes and; the outer border consisting of small repeated triangles, not unlike the triangles found in kepalas.  The vertical lines and the triangles are said to represent a fence or a row of arrowheads which provide protection for the wearer.

This is a work that exudes an overwhelming feeling of joy and has a strong sense of prosperity.  The ducks in this work carry the message of marriage happiness.  The butterfly motif with its flowing lines and graceful curves, was introduced by the Chinese.

(Detail of signature - click to enlarge)

The signature, running vertically, is in the top right corner.  It appears to be: KWEE G_ _ _  PN? 

The only Kwee I could identify were: married in 1924, Oey Soe Tjoen's wife was Kwee Tjoen Giok.  She assumed a European-style name , Nettie Kwee; and from the same family as Nettie Kwee there was a batik maker in Pekalongan Kwee Kwie Nio (1910 - 1986), who started a workshop in 1934 and signed Netty Kwee.  This family took over the rights of The Tie Siet in 1970.  Both of these batik makers were producing work later then when this cloth was made.   

If you can recognise who the batik maker of this exquisite cloth is please could you share your knowledge with us all - many thanks.


Rens Heringa's two essays in the catalogue Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java,  The Historical Background of Batik on Java and Batik Pasisir as Mestizo Costume, are a rich and wonderful source for anyone wishing to expand their appreciation, knowledge and understanding of batik Pasisir.

Rens Heringa, Harmen C. Veldhuisen, Dale Carolyn Gluckman, Peter Cole.
Fabric of  Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Weatherhill, Inc., New York City,

See you again soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Batik Road - H. Mohammed Masina - Cirebon

Cirebon was founded in 1378 by the Muslim ruler Walangsungsang.  It was the only city on the Pasisir in which court life played a significant role, inspiring the rich development of spiritual and artistic expression.  As a result of the city being a vital sea port with links to the east and west, it became a melting pot of the ancient cultures in Indonesia.  Enclaves of Chinese, Arabs and Indians were established, each group adding their own beliefs and local customs.  Cirebon became and still is today, a vibrant multinational community.

Today a visit to the palaces, or keratons, built in the Hindu-Javanese style will provide you a glimpse into this exotic lost world.  The two main palaces are Keraton Kesepuhan and Keraton Kanoman, the sultanates date back to the 17th century.

Iwan Tirta writes that from a sociological point of view, the batiks of Cirebon can be divided into two categories: those for the royal families, batik keratonan, and those for people outside the palace walls, batik kenduruan [Iwan Tirta, BATIK: A Play of Light and Shades, p99, Jakarta: Gaya Favorit Press, 1996].

With the decline of the sultans many of the keraton batik have been lost.  As mentioned in an earlier Post, H. Mohammed Masina and his wife revived some of the sacred royal patterns of the courts of Cirebon.  It actually was the Madmil family who initally recovered some of court patterns but because of the excellent craftsmanship of the Masina workshop, it is given the credit for the recovery.

The 12 different motifs making up the sampler below, are drawn in a rich Chinese blue on a warm cream background.  The line work is very fine and of great clarity.  The figures also possess a sense of movement and rhythm.  In Cirebon, even daily scenes from the court became a motif depicted on a cream background.  There are a range of keraton motifs here that you will recognize: the megamendung, or stormy cloud design; wadas, patterns of  layered rock or coral; the fragrant garden motifs, taman arum, which echoed the medative landscape retreats of Cirebon's rulers; and there are also shapes similar to the gunungang or kayon, a tree of life motif.   

Trusmi near Cirebon
Batik Masina workshop
(H. Mohammed Masina), 1950s
Sampler, Keraton macam
(Top: complete work made up of 12 patterns;
& two details)
Cotton, synthetic dyes; batik tulis
103.0 x 260.0 cm
[Photos: Mick Richards]

Kereta Singa Barong (detail), a i6th century gilded chariot with a trunk of an elephant (Hindu), the head and body of a dragon (Chinese-Buddhist), golden wings (Egyptian-Islamic), and the paws of a tiger.  When being pulled by four white buffaloes, the wings would flap and the tongue would move about.  This is a must see at Keraton Kesepuhan which is Cirebon's oldest kraton, built in 1527 [Photo: Ian Reed].

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Batik Road - Ibu Masina - Trusmi, Cirebon


Ibu Masina - Trusmi - Cirebon, 1960s
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Lenggang kangkung motif
Cotton, synthetic dyes, batik tulis
103.0 x 241.5 cm [Photo: Mick Richards]

Please click on all images to enlarge.

The work above (and detail below), was made in the workshop of Hajj Masina by his wife Ibu Masina in the early 1960s.  They were the parents of Budi Masina who has been highlighted in earlier posts.  Hajj and Ibu were the 4th generation of this renowned batik family in Trusmi, Cirebon.  The name of the motif lenggang kangkung was the inspiration of Hajj's father H. Mohammed Masina, the 3rd generation of the family.  He was also a farmer and gained inspiration for this motif from the fresh looking and verdant growth of his kangkung (water spinach) plants.  If you have visited Indonesia you would certainly have enjoyed kangkung as one of your vegetables.

The resulting motif lenggang kangkung certainly depicts all the characteristics of verdant growth.  These dark and mysterious forms, full of energy, are the embodiment of the sense of freedom obtained when suspended in water.  The irregularity of the placement of these forms across the surface of the kain panjang, amplified by the energy-rich flora motif (tanahan) on the background, add to this overall sense of dynamism.  The whole pictorial surface is alive and there appears to be nothing routine or simplistic in the bold artwork.

Detail of kain panjang with lenggang kangkung motif
[Photo: Mick Richards]

In contrast with this work by Ibu Masina from the 1960s is a kain panjang below made some ten years later by her.  It is far more subtle in both its colours and motif. What heightens its appeal is that the motif is depicted within diagonal bands or dlorong.  These bands along with the tonal variation of the colours within each of these bands establishes a strong sense of optical repetition.  As always with batik made by any of the five generations of the Masina family, this work is of excellent craftsmanship.  In this work Ibu has made use of the combination of traditional browns on a tan background that was typical of the work of H. Mohammed Masina and his wife Bi Masio Narsibo.

Thank you to Budi and Ida Masina and their daughter Dwie for their generous assistance identifying the motifs and the stories behind each of the batiks illustrated.  Thank you also for providing me with the list of names of the five generations of the Masina family and the approximate time each generation operated the workshop in Trusmi.  It all began in 1829 with AP. Adam and Mbok Rad.

Ibu Masina - Trusmi - Cirebon, 1970s
Skirt cloth kain panjang
Patran kembang (many flower tentacles), Babarmas (colour)
Cotton, synthetic dyes, batik tulis
105.0 x 236.0 cm [Photo: Mick Richards]

Detail of kain panjang with patran kembang motif
[Photo: Mick Richards} 

Detail of kain panjang with patran kembang motif
[Photo: Mick Richards]

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Batik Road - Masina Batik - Cirebon

Masina Batik - Trusmi - Cirebon

Wayang Cirebon Motif - Ragam hias Wayang Cirebon

Detail: Skirt cloth kain panjang, Masina workshop, Wayang Cirebon motif, 2010;
Cotton, synthetic dyes, batik tulis; 103.0 x 286.0 cm [Photo: Mick Richards]

Detail as above [Photo: Mick Richards]

Scenes from the wayang kulit shadow theatre performance are replicated here in this traditional design depicting a contest between Ksatria, or members of the warrior class.

The ivory background while not evident in this photograph, is a distinctive feature of Cirebon batik.  The ivory colour is also called kuning Cirebon (kuning = yellow).  This work has a wonderful sense of rhythm established by the movement of the figures and landscape features, all within the dense complexity of the surface.  The figures are anchored to the surface by referencing them to landscape features like the trees, birds, clouds and plants and built structures like entry gates and shrines.  The drawing is lyrical and in much detail.   Like much of the work from the Masina workshop the background is keep totally clear of any dye flow.  This is achieved by building up the wax surface over these areas to prevent penetration by other colours into the rich ivory background.  

A visit to Budi and Ida Masina's Batik & Antique Shop is a must when you are next visiting Cirebon:

Jl. Trusmi Kulon, Cirebon Jabar - Indonesia
(0231) 321700

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Batik Road - Tiga Negeri

The tiga negeri batik developed in response to a change in fashion trends which required increasingly intricate designs.

Detail of the tiga negeri batik illustrated below and in my previous Post.
[Photo: Mick Richards].
Batik tiga negeri- to enable full appreciation of this exquisite batik I have included a number of details.
[Photo: Mick Richards].

This detail allows you to observe the various small motifs within the alternating dianogal bands or dlorong (a variation of the central Javanese geblak).  The flowers are depicted rather vaguely.
[Photo: Mick Richards].

The Batik Road - Combining Pasisir and Central Javanese Colours & Motifs

Batik tiga negeri - Skirt cloth kain panjang
Cirebon , c. 1920 - 106.0  x 258.0 cm

Batik tiga negeri refers to batik cloth that combines the filler motifs and colour styles of three different batik making regions.  The production centers included one of the Principalities, usually Solo for its rich soga brown, and the other two from the Pasisir.  Depending on the region in which the soga is made, it may occur in various shades.

Tiga negeri cloth was an outcome of changes in fashion tastes post the 1870s and continued on into the twentieth century.  These trends dictated a preference for extremely intricate designs.  They were very expensive cloths that also epitomised the Javanese desire for perfection by ensuring each cloth utilised only the best qualities from each region.  By combining the motifs from the Pasisir and central Java, the wearer was highlighting connections with groups in both regions.  Later on these beautiful batiks became a display of the wearer's affluence.

I also believe that the development of tiga negeri cloths, is another example of batik being a living tradition where existing motifs continue to be modified and new motifs evolve, all of which add to its rich vocabulary.  

This exquisite work is made up of four floral bouquets and rather then being arranged on a plain background, they are integrated into the background.  This buketan style is considered to be typical of batik Pasisir, and was the fashion for Europeans and Indo-Europeans.  The buketan style also soon became the choice of Peranakan Chinese wanting their social position to be seen as being equal to the Dutch.  Their cloths as seen above, were very elaborate and the bouquets were difficult to distinguish from the background.  The background is made up of slanting bands or dlorong containing a number of filler motifs.  The colour combinations are very complex.  




Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pasisir Batik Road - Cirebon - Madmil Workshop


Renowned 10th generation batik-maker, Ega Sugeng and her son Arief Nurochmat of Batik Madmil.  Their home and workshop  compound is in Trusmi, Cirebon.  They are standing in front of one of Ega's magnificent works, a
tiga negeri kupu-kupu beras tabur.  It is a 15-colour kain panjang and is 2.6 meters long.  [Photo: Ian Reed]

When we last visited Ega in 2008 we commissioned a 12-colour kain sarong featuring the kembang rangdu negerian motif (detail above).  This cloth took one year to complete and for a work of such complexity, it is flawless in its making.  The kepala is made up of slanting bands or dhorong (as above).  Each band varies in colour, the type of flower and the very intricate filler patterning found within a motif, isen-isen.  The border around the whole work as well as that of the main body of the sarong, the badan, is a repetition of one of the dhorong making up the kepala.  [Photo: Mick Richards]  

Tiga negeri kupu-kupu beras tabar as seen in the background of the first image above.  The butterflies are drawn with a great sense of freedom and the dancing peacocks (as per the  final image below), celebrate beauty and boldness.  [Photo: Ian Reed]

This detail and the one below illustrate Ega's use of a wide variety of background filler motifs, the areas outside the main motifs, called tanahan.  Reference has been already made to isen-isen, the intricate filling motifs used to fill in the primary motifs.

When you are next in Cirebon a visit to Batik Madmil to meet Ega and Arief is a must do.  They are very generous with their time and only to happy to share with you examples of Ega's work.  All of Ega's work is by commission- from the various examples you are shown, you choose a work you would like to commission to be made.  This will take at least one year.  Many commissions are received from overseas museums and galleries.

Contact details:

Trusmi Kulon 388
Weru Plered Cirebon 45154
Tel: +62 231 321045
Email Arief Nurochmat:  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Batik Road - Travel Recommendations for Java

Taking the Batik Road along the north coast of Java is a wonderful way to visit the batik workshops, gain a real appreciation of the natural and built environments of this region and most importantly, build a stronger understanding of and connection with the people.  In the larger towns or cities or at the road-side stalls we were very quickly welcomed and engaged in conservation.  Being able to pull over at any time allows you to experience a whole range of daily life activities including: fishing; planting rice; local markets; wedding processions; delicious food preparation; identifying various plants and trees; spotting birds; looking at batik drying on lines in home gardens; and so many other activities all of which, enriches your cultural understandings.

As Henry Miller said: 'One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things'.

This unbelievable journey that began at Jakarta and concluded at Ubud, Bali, would not have been possible without the guidance and recommendations of Udhi Sudiyanto, Director of Antar Anda Tour and Travel, Yogyakarta.  After a Google search I emailed five Javanese Tour and Travel agencies.  Udhi replied immediately and his response corresponded to our requests rather then attempting to change our travel plans.  After we indicated the towns and cities we wished to visit Udhi finalised all travel aspects of the journey including the car and English speaking driver, all of the accommodation including breakfast, all parking and toll fees and the car ferry to Bali.  He understood us as travellers and ensured we had a variety of accommodation that meet our interests.

The whole experience was made so much the better because of our driver, Sugiyono (Sugi).  Sugi took his care and responsibility for us very seriously and ensured that at all times we were safe, comfortable, understood and maximising our enjoyment.  He also enjoyed being introduced to batik and batik makers and visiting locations that he had not been to before.  Sugi's contribution to the success of the trip was immense.

Our driver Sugi outside the Antar Anda office in Yogya [Photo: Ian Reed]
Sugi (on right) enjoyed the opportunity to meet the many batik makers along the north coast of Java.  Here we are all enjoying a wonderful morning with Budi and Ida Masina of the renowned Masina Batik Workshop in Trusmi, Cirebon [Photo: David Hill] 

We highly recommend Udhi Sudiyanto, Director of Antar Anda Tour & Travel to you and if you are travelling by car please ask for Sugi to be your driver, you will not be disappointed.

Udhi Sudiyanto, Director
+62 8122962693
Jalan Kledokan B 20 E

Some of the hotels we enjoyed and would recommend are:

Our room at the d'Omah Hotel in the village of Tembi, 20 minutes from central Yogya.  Rooms are meticulously restored old Javanese houses with all of the modern additions like the Internet.  Each room in the hotel is filled with antiques, artifacts and contemporary Indonesian paintings and sculpture.  You can truly relax here and the restaurant food is excellent
[Photo: Ian Reed]

The Guest House GG House, Happy Valley outside Bogor; Hotel Sare Sae, Cirebon; Nirwana Hotel, Pekalongan; two outstanding hotels in Yogyakarta- d'Omah tucked away in the famous craft village of Tembi, with its resident designer Warwick Purser, the Director of Out of Asia, is 20 minutes south of Yogya and in central Yogya, the historic Phoenix Hotel which was originally built in 1918 and since beautifully adapted to incorporate contemporary features has great colonial charm ; Lor In with its expansive and lush tropical gardens in Solo; while we did not stay at the Hotel Tugu in Malang we would highly recommend it to you.  It is an outstanding example of a hotel museum with every room filled with Javanese antiques and artifacts.; and the Margo Utomo located in the small hill-country town of Kalibaru, our last stop in east Java before catching the ferry to Bali.  This is a delightful Resort to relax in after a long journey.  Very comfortable cottages, lush botanic like gardens to become lost in and very warm hospitality