POST D: Batik In Indonesia

Batik is an Indonesian heritage from the 19th Century, derived from Javanese words amba, which means “to write” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E. 2011), and titik, “to dot.” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E.) It is a fabric that has been decorated using a “wax resist dyeing method” (Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E.), where the batik maker applies a pattern of hot wax to a cloth. Once the wax dries, the fabric is either brushed with or dipped into a series of dyes. When the wax is later removed, it preserves the intricate patterns of unstained cloth. (Murinto, P. & Aribowo, E. 2016). As I naively thought, batik is not just a combination of colour and pattern, but are symbolic, with each image and every colour determined by traditions and in turn, imply unique meaning. Each batik is different due to influences by local cultures due to “colonial rule, wartime occupation, trade and other geographical factors.” (Henn, C. 2004). Just like my family has a different patterned Scottish tartan to another, throughout all parts of Asia (not just Indonesia), batik can be defined according to “pattern, colour, or fabric” (UNESCO 2009) and carries great social, cultural and political significance.

Today there are “over 2500 batik motifs patented” (Marini, T. 2016) and the development of batik across Indonesia is still happening along modern and traditional influences, so I will only describe a few. Based on the general pattern and colours, “batik in Java is usually divided into inland, also known as pedalaman batik and coastal, pesisir batik.” (Emeralda, E. 2016). Pedalaman batik, especially from places like Yogyakarta and Surakarta as mapped, it is regarded as the oldest form in Java. The absence of external influences such as religion or culture is demonstrated through the “earthy colours used such as black, indigo, brown and yellow” (Emeralda, E.). Another colour was a brown-yellow known as “sogan” (Emeralda, E.) made from a “native tree dye.” (Emeralda, E.)

Yogyakarta batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)
Surakarta batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)

Conversely, in the northern areas of Java, Cirebon and Madura where trading was historically more prevalent, the batik reflects outside influences with foreign patterns and brighter colours such as light blues and pinks. Furthermore, evidence of trading with China is demonstrated in the patterns of Cirebon batik through the phoenix and dragon. (Emeralda, E.)

Cirebon batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)
Madura batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)

Batik was introduced to Sumatra, Bali and Kalimantan from Javanese influences as demand only increased with local development. (Ernawati, K. 2012). Here, batik known as “benang bintik from central Kalimantan”, (Ernawati, K.) was traditionally only used for weddings or ceremonies, but today is starting to pop up in local designers’ works. Batik from these areas are characterised by “bright vibrant colours,” (Ernawati, K.), usually done by hand as oppose to block printing. Today, flowers are particularly prominent in areas of Sumatra and Bali to support modern day tourism needs.

Sumatra batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)
Bali batik. (Photo: Marini, T. 2016)
Kalimantan batik. (Photo: Emeralda, E. 2016)

Batik in Indonesia is not just a combination of pattern and colour but a representation of the land in which it originates due to trade relations across Asia. Batik is so unique it is possible to identify its derivation through pattern and colours. I am looking forward to seeing this in different parts of Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan when I visit in January.

Batik Map.jpg
This map visually represents the batik across Indonesia I have discussed, making it easier for you to identify where these places are on a map. (Illustration: Nicholl, A. 2017)

Reference List:

Daszak, P. & Howard, S.E. 2011, ‘Punctuated Equilibria and Indonesian Art’, EcoHealth, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 134-5, viewed 04 December 2017

Emeralda, E. 2016, ‘3 Distinct Types of batik That You Should Know’, Arts and Culture, Indonesia Tatler, viewed 04 December 2017 <;

Ernawati, K. 2012, ‘Types and Variations of Batik Indonesia’, Just You Fashion, viewed 05 December 2017 <;

Google Maps 2017. Indonesia, viewed 06 December 2017 <,105.1698715,6z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x2c4c07d7496404b7:0xe37b4de71badf485!8m2!3d-0.789275!4d113.921327?dcr=0&gt;

Henn, C. 2004, ‘Batik Designs’, School Arts: The Art Education Magazine for Teachers, vol. 103, no. 6, pp. 48, viewed 04 December 2017

Marini, T. 2016, ‘Know Various Types of Traditional Indonesian Batik Patterns’, Tinuku, viewed 05 December 2017 <;

Murinto, P. & Aribowo, E. 2016, ‘Image Segmentation Using Hidden Markov Tree Methods in Recognising Motif of Batik’, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, vol. 85, no. 1, pp. 27-33, viewed 04 December 2017

Nicholl, A. 2017, ‘Map of batik across Indonesia.’

UNESCO. 2009, Indonesian Batik, Youtube, viewed 04 December 2017 <;

3 thoughts on “POST D: Batik In Indonesia

  1. That’s really interesting! I had no idea that it was more than just really amazing patterns! Going to be cool to know this while we are in Indonesia and seeing the Batik!

  2. It was interesting hearing about how this practice have evolved and how outside influences have impacted design, whether this be through foreign patterns or the use of bright colours. This gave me further insights into my our research on Indonesian art practices. I think that by understanding the significance of these design, we will be able to truely appreciate the practice when we are in Indonesian!

  3. this is such an interesting read! the long heritage and history of batik is fascinating! I was not aware how culturally potent it is in reflecting its origins of production. It seems to embody each unique identity of the people where it has come in as well as being telling of the narrative of time.

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