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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]