Javanese batik to the world: Europe, Africa, India and Australia
24 November 2016 ; Ruang Sidang 1 ; 13.00-15.00 wib
From the end of the 19th century, batik of Java – its technique, motifs as well as aesthetics, became a source of inspiration for textile producers, designers and artists across the world. In the early stage, this process was an outcome of colonial encounters when the wax-dyeing technique was introduced to the decorative arts of the Netherlands. In a short time batik became very popular among thousands of Western artists and craftsmen. While at times it was an informed adaptation of the Javanese technique that, in the process, was creatively adjusted to Western conditions, at the other extreme batik was used as an embodiment of Oriental fantasy.
The influence of Javanese batik on African textiles was an indirect process — an outcome of colonial globalisation facilitated by European industrialists. It also started in the last decade of the 19th century, when imitations of Javanese fabrics printed in the Netherlands and United Kingdom, started to be traded to West Africa. Javanese designs have been enthusiastically received by African people and, following a process of extensive adaptation, have become an integral part of the African textile tradition and identity.
To India, the Javanese technique was introduced in the late 1920s, following the visit of Rabindranath Tagore to Java and Bali. The great Indian poet and philosopher was fascinated with the cultural traditions of Indonesia and introduced some of them to the Visva Bharati University courses. Javanese batik helped to revive the old Indian tradition of wax-resist dyeing and provided the impulse to develop a new group of textiles that reflected Tagore’s philosophy and aesthetics.
The most recent of the cross-cultural encounters commenced in the 1970s with the introduction of the batik technique to the Aboriginal communities of the central desert of Australia. In the following years several collaborative projects took place, in which Australian and Indonesian artists worked side by side. In a process parallel to Java, in some cases patterns of Aboriginal batiks became imbued with cosmological meanings.
The great popularity of the batik technique had far-reaching consequences: it stimulated world-wide interest in Javanese culture and led to the organisation of public and private collections of Javanese art as well as numerous exhibitions and publications promoting the culture of this island.
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Maria Wronska-Friend is a Senior Research Fellow at the College of Arts, Society and Education at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. She is a cultural anthropologist with a particular interest in Southeast Asian dress and textiles as well as museum anthropology. Batik of Java, analysed as a cross-cultural phenomenon, is the main topic of her studies. Her PhD from the Institute of Arts at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, investigated the influence of Javanese batik on European art at the turn of 19th-20th centuries (Art Nouveau and Art Deco). As a museum curator she has organised several exhibitions, in Australia and Poland, promoting Indonesian textiles. She is the author of several books and exhibition catalogues on Indonesian textiles, as well as of academic papers. In October 2016, in Jakarta, she published a book ‘Batik Jawa bagi Dunia. Javanese Batik to the World’ that examines the influence of the batik technique and aesthetics on textiles made in Europe, Africa, India and Australia.