Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Batik, the technique of patterning cloth through the application of wax, reached the highest level of complexity on the island of Java. While deeply embedded in local traditions and associated with the social order of Java, outside Indonesia batik became a powerful cultural intermediary connecting countries as diverse as Netherlands, Japan, Ghana, India, and Australia. In the early stages, this process was an outcome of the Dutch colonial agency. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Dutch East India Company sold Indian textiles destined for Indonesian markets as well as small quantities of Javanese batiks to the Japanese. It led to the introduction of Javanese motifs in the Edo fashion and ensued a centuries-long interest in Indonesian textiles. A large-scale dissemination of Javanese iconography started at the end of the 19th century with the export of European copies of batik textiles to West African markets. Javanese motifs were enthusiastically received by African customers and, following a process of intensive adaptation, have become an integral part of African textile tradition and identity. Another outcome of colonial encounters was the introduction of the batik technique to the Netherlands around 1890. A decade later, batik was practiced all over Europe and became a distinctive feature of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Interest in this technique led to the introduction of Javanese motifs into European fashion and fine arts, for example the works of Poiret, van de Velde, Ch. R. Mackintosh and Matisse. More recent introduction in the 1930s of the Javanese batik technique to West Bengal in India and into Australian Aboriginal communities forty years later, resulted from direct contacts. For example, the 1927 visit to Java by Rabindranath Tagore led to the development of Bengali batik-nowadays a successful cottage industry. While in Australia, following a series of collaborative workshops between Indonesian and Aboriginal artists, batik became a modern medium for expressing Aboriginal identity and ancestral legacy.