Tuesday, February 9, 2010

• Some History of Javanese Batik •

Although batik dates back many thousands of years in Egypt later in China and much later still in many African countries (including Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa), it was in Java that it found its most elaborate form. Some suggest that this craft was brought to Java from India in the 13 century but there is compelling evidence from Java's neighboring islands which suggests that it was developed long before and was perhaps brought to India.

Regardless of its origin, by the 1700 it was a highly developed and widely practices art form on the island of Java. The word Batik itself is Javanese and means to make dots.

Many of the motifs have symbolic meaning attached to them which would dictate who and where any given pattern would be worn. For example the Parang design pictured here, was for a long time, reserved for those belonging to the royal court of Yogyakarta. The larger the motif, the higher ranked is the wearer.

Another example is the ngetik bunga pattern which would be worn to a wedding celebration and worn by the couples' parents. Nowadays these meanings are not strictly adhered to. It is very common to see anyone at all sporting giant Parang pattern for example.

Because of the extremely labour intensive nature of Batik, until faster methods of production (batik cap and chemical colors) were developed, Batik was only worn for ceremonial purposes, or (and) by royalty.

Photos courtesy of: "The book of Batik" by Fiona Kerlogue, Archipelago Press. 2004.

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