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batik sarong

Strictly speaking, batik is just the name for the technique of printing textile using wax. The artisan draws using a pointed tool or deposits the wax with a copper stamp. Since the wax is dye resistant, it is possible for the artisan to soak the cloth in different colors and selectively dye the textile. Wax is then removed with boiling water, so he can continue dying with as many colors as desired.

Batik in Indonesia, is much more. It is the print style that represents the nation, where colors and patterns are sometimes associated with families or even the royalty - the latter are actually forbidden to wear by the rest of the population. Indonesia was occupied by Dutch from 1602, formally nationalized Dutch colony in 1800. Dutch ruled until 1942, when the Japanese expansion in the Pacific took over Indonesia. After their surrender in 1945, Indonesia declared independency. It is also possible to see traces of this occupation in some print designs including Japanese designs (like sakura blossom)

Besides National Batik Day - which actually took place during my visit, company employees are encouraged to wear Batik every Friday. So you can imagine everyone, from the CEO to the cleaning lady, covered by colorful prints. Foreign companies with premises in Indonesia also adhere to the local custom, so it is double fun, with the average Joe or the blonde Svensson, dressed in print.

various batik prints for sale in Jakarta shopping mall

Batik is traditionally sold in 2.25m length which can be used for sarong. It can be worn in 2 ways, either wrapped around the hip or made into a hat, which is called blangkon. The pattern of the cloth can be the same throughout the cloth or divided into sections, so that different parts appear when it is twisted around the body.

clothing and other accesories made with batik

It is possible to find clothes already made with Batik, but generally speaking it is not cheap, at least in the malls of Jakarta. so I wouldn't recommend to buy clothing as souvenir (unless you buy it for you or for someone who is really keen on color), otherwise it may very well end up as Halloween costume to play a 70s hippy. However, scarves, pareos, bags or pouches can be much more attractive for the western fashionista on the quest for exotic accessorizing. It is also possible to find home items, like cushions or tablecloth in Batik, which pair nicely with wooden bowls and cuttlery which is increasingly popular.

Did you like Batik? Where would you wear it or use it? Leave a comment (^_^)


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