Translation: Female Batik Worker

Submitted by: Juhr Selamet

Program: Graphic Design

Division: Fine Arts and Humanities

Image Description: female batik worker in batik “Sri Kuncoro” workshop that is located in a village called Wukirsari - Giriloyo in Imogiri, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I traveled to Indonesia and I took this picture in 2016 as part of my thesis research and project in Javanese batik.

My research and thesis project centers around Javanese batik — recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of human heritage in 2009 — and the cultural diversity represented in its diverse patterns, symbolizing Indonesia’s historically complex religious views, cultures, and ethnic identities.

Batik is closely affiliated with the Indonesian people, and more specifically the Javanese who are known for wearing and promoting it. The term batik is an ancient Indonesian word that emerged during the 14th century. During this period, batik meant writing or making a dot or a collection of dots, usually on cloth (Hitchcock, Michael, and Nuryanti, 2000). In Indonesia, batik usually takes the form of patterned woven cloth, created by using canting or a wax pen to cover the parts of the fabric that tend to resist dyeing or color during the process.

Originally localized, batik spread across Indonesia and remains present in most Indonesian communities and at least 18 Indonesia provinces. Today, batik is used to preserve and retain Indonesia’s cultural heritage. By creating solidarity among Indonesians, it allows them to preserve their culture (ibid). Batik has thus gained a reputation as a tool for strengthening cultural heritage and nation building. While Indonesian society contains a broad number of different ethnic groups, their shared connection to batik provides a common visual language to which each group can feel a sense of belonging (Hann, 2013). This sense of belonging plays a significant role in providing cultural continuity, while making a notable contribution to the country’s economy.

My interest in batik is driven by a fascination with objects and their ability to represent society. At the center of my interest is the notion of identity. This project serves as a way to recontextualizing local culture within new frameworks. By combining original forms with new formats and media, I hope to develop a hybrid praxis that prompts dialogue.

Hann, M. (2013). Symbol, Pattern and Symmetry: The Cultural Significance of Structure. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Hitchcock, M., Nuryanti, W., & University of North London. (2000). Building on batik: The globalization of a craft community. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate.