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The value of batik for the people in Indonesia, as well as Madiba for the people in South Africa or Rketsuzome in Japan, which is not just a trend in the fashion world, but it already has become an identity of a culture.
Basically, Batik, Madiba, and Rketsuzome are the developments of Wax resist dyeing technique that is quite old and has long been used in many cultures around the world. Therefore, be no surprise when batik can be found not only in Indonesia, but also in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. In fact, similar techniques have been applied in China since the 6th century. Based on the opinions J.L.A. Brandes (a Dutch archaeologist) and F.A. Sutjipto (an Indonesian archaeologist), batik has become a local tradition in Indonesia that taught from generation to generation. Even according G.P. Rouffaer, batik has been developed rapidly in Indonesia in the 12th century.
The uniqueness of Batik art in Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, is made of the whole painted by hand and is called Batik Tulis. Batik was painted using a special wax pen called Canthing, tools made of copper that is formed to accommodate the batik wax and has a small tip of a pipe as an exit channel for the wax when it is used to draw on the fabric surface. The uniqueness of handmade batik is the high level of complexity to the pattern image. In addition, there is no repetition of the image is really the same. The high level of difficulty in manufacture process and the length of time until it reaches around 3-6 months to complete it are some from many reasons that make batik has the same value as the art paintings.
Batik art values not only in terms of production but also from the patterns and images therein. Up to now has been recorded at around 3000 types of batik pattern in Java. In the words of the ancient Javanese, ajining raga ana ing busana, which means that a person’s personality is reflected from the clothes that he was wearing, it reflects the values of batik as a status symbol. According to the Javanese tradition, there are patterns and pictures on batik, which should only be worn by certain people based on his status. In fact, some patterns and motifs, such as the Parang Rusak Barong, the Parang Rusak Gendreh, and some specific patterns have been established in 1785 by Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, the first king of Yogyakarta Sultanate, as the patterns which may not be used except by the aristocratic families who be a descendant of Panembahan Senopati, the founder of the Sultanate of Mataram in Java. So do not be surprised if there are a lot of batik motifs and patterns that will never be found anywhere.
Batik creations are not only pursuing its beauty, but also apply the philosophy of life values in the pattern. Any kind of batik in Java has a symbolic value that made the artist in hopes of bringing goodness and happiness for the wearer. So batik not only symbolise the status of their users but also full of symbols that are holistic philosophical. It reflected in the use of various batiks in every type and characteristics of traditional ceremonies in Java. Some of them are named the Sidomukti and the Sidomulyo pattern that usually used in marriage ceremonies or the Kawung pattern that used in funeral ceremonies. Not only that, there was a belief if the Batik pattern such as the Tambal pattern can provide healing when it used for someone who was sick.
Until now on the island of Java, there are many cities are still become the traditional batik work areas, such as Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Cirebon, Indramayu, Garut, Pekalongan, Lasem, Madura, Jambi, West Sumatra, Bali and others. And uniquely, every city has its own traits and characteristics of each. According to Thomas Sigar, batik collector who is also a fashion designer in Indonesia, he said that besides the diversity of patterns in each region, the historic and cultural values that are stored on it had made batik became very valuable artwork. Some of the most valuable batik collections that own by Thomas are the Batik of Van Zuylen. This batik is made in the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia, which is influenced by European culture. In addition, other collection is the Batik Tulis Pesisiran variant called the Mega Mendung and made from the town of Cirebon. The uniqueness of this rare type is the blaccolouror on its base cloth that combined with the red color of the Mega Mendung pattern.
Caring batik has a unique way. Although there are many detergents that are used only for batik, but the best detergent to treat batik is the Lerak fruit, Sapindus rarak DC, it is a traditional detergent ingredients that have been used in many tropical countries. When washing batik is highly recommended not to use washing machines, but it will be enough to soak it in warm water that already mixed with the powder of Lerak fruit. But if the Batik is really dirty, such as food stains can be removed simply by rubbing orange peel on the dirty part earlier. Avoid to press and drying it directly to the sun, but only dried it in the shade or aerated. After that, it is recommended to avoid ironing Batik directly, but put a cloth pad on top of it. The last step is to store batik in plastic to avoid the attack of pests and fungi. In addition, important enough to be avoided is the use of mothballs (camphor) in storage cupboard because the substance is very hard and can damage the batik.