Date of this Version
Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.
Sultan Agung of the highly respected Javanese inland agrarian state of Mataram, first had sought the assistance of the Dutch in an attempt to expand his commercial interests. The Dutch declined. This was a major offense to the Indonesian ruler and made the Sultan very angry. It was made even worse when the sultan twice failed to seize Batavia in the late 1620s to dislodge the hated Dutch. From that time onwards a silent war began which lasted throughout the 17th century. Since local rulers and their men could not fight Dutch might, retaliation was instigated by the wife of the sultan with the assistance of thousands of women and slaves associated with the courts. Local rulers in towns controlled by the Dutch quietly aligned themselves with the women by prohibiting their subjects from buying Indian textiles from the Company, and their message and campaign spread far and wide. A decline of the Company's textile trade set in, while women everywhere rekindled the weaving of their own cloths and import substitution was promoted. The most striking silent weapon the Javanese women used was the revival of batik as an industry that started in the latter part of the 17th century. Batik effectively substituted for imported painted textiles thereby declaring the power of women, backed by the sounds of their looms clicking in their thousands.