Batik for International Diplomacy

Wastraprema, an association of traditional textile lovers, has suggested the government use batik to promote Indonesia’s culture, values and heritage abroad. The association’s chairwoman, Adiati Arifin Siregar, said batik could facilitate the sharing of ancient values and national history with other countries as the article in the Jakarta Post explains.

“We have always supported the government’s efforts to promote traditional cultures and to introduce cultural heritage to other nations. Batik can be part of the package,” Adiati said during a ceremony to mark the association’s 31st birthday Thursday.

To celebrate its anniversary, the association is currently holding a traditional textile exhibition with a batik and wayang (puppet) theme at the Jakarta Textile Museum in West Jakarta. The exhibition will run until July 5.

“Batik is not just something our ancestors wore, but is also a medium through which their philosophies and moral values can be seen,” Adiati said.

Wastraprema was established on June 28, 1976, on the request of then Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin, who is an enthusiast of art and culture.

The association’s collection of textiles is in the thousands. Half of the collection is made up of items donated by former state officials.

According to Ministry of Industry records, there are more than 3000 batik motives used in Indonesia. Some of the more well-known motives are Parang Kusumo, Parang Barong and Sekar Jagad.

In ancient Javanese culture, certain types of batik were worn exclusively by royal and noble families due to the delicate process required to make them and sacred symbols used.

Later on, the batik industry grew and simpler fabrics were produced for the wider community.

Modern textile factories that opened up across Java in the 1970s pushed aside batik as they were able to produce cheaper textiles. Batik, however, is still commonly worn among older members of society.

Nowadays, the price of a piece of batik varies depending on its motif, colors used and its level of intricacy. Undyed fabric sells for approximately Rp 250,000, while dyed fabric varies in price from Rp 500,000 to Rp 1,500,000 (US$165)

Didy Haryono, a batik expert, said the government should hold regular international exhibitions demonstrating Indonesia’s traditional textiles to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage.

“We already talk enough about politics and the economy. We should start talking about batik and other traditional textiles at international forums,” she said.

She said Wastaprema would require strong support from local administrations and the central government to be able to hold traditional textiles exhibitions and workshops in the future.

The vice head of the City Cultural and Museum Agency, Agung Widodo, said that the city administration would back up Wastaprema’s activities to develop and promote traditional textiles as much as its budget allowed.

“Building the textile museum proves that we are serious about supporting cultural activities, even though our budget is limited,” he said.