This annotated bibliography includes a selection of books and articles on Indonesian textiles. While the bibliography covers the range of textiles produced in Indonesia, there is more discussion on batiks, the primary focus of The Island Gallery. Academic texts, and more popular texts on interior design that show how these textiles are exhibited today, are included. The selections provide a good start for those wishing to read more about Indonesian textiles. However, there are some publications that were out of print or unavailable when assembling the bibliography, so readers and researchers are encouraged to pursue the most recent publications on the subject.
Ament, Deloris Tarzan. “Threads of Tradition/Weavings are Deep in Texture and Significance.” two articles discussing the Manring Collection, a portion of which was established in the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle Times, January 12, 1992.
These articles discuss Timothy Manring and his wife, Indrastuti Hadiputranto, who donated 500 Indonesian ikat textiles to the Seattle Art Museum. The couple has collected Indonesian textiles since 1970. At the time of the article, they said that a 2 ½ meter sarong-length batik by a famous maker such as Javanese artist Osy Soe Tjoen could cost $1,000, gold-leafed batiks $5,000, and good silk batiks $80-$200 each. “Still, in one of those ironies that abound in the world of art, batik makers may earn as little as $3 a day.” Prices for fine ikats are harder to predict, because there are no standard dimensions. The Manrings noted that originally they had intended to give SAM examples of both ikats and batiks, but found that the museum was interested only in ikats. Ament notes that “Indonesia’s exquisite batiks, tapestry weavings, and shell embroidery all win worldwide admiration. But no textile exceeds ikat in complexity and pure artistic power.” The article discusses that the fineness of an ikat depends on how many threads are bunched for tying. In ordinary ikats, 10 to 15 threads are bunched; in the finest weavings, as few as three may compose a bundle.”
Brenner, Suzanne April. Domestication of Desire: Women, Wealth and Modernity in Java. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.
Written by an anthropologist who conducted field research for two years in central Java during the mid-eighties, this book provides a fascinating view of the social and economic structures prevailing in Laweyan, a neighborhood of Solo once known for its vibrant batik production. “Laweyan had developed around the turn of the century into one of the preeminent centers of the batik industry in Solo and, in fact, in the whole of the Netherlands East Indies.” (34) She presents a good history of batik production and tries to understand how “a fundamentally modern community in the first half of the twentieth 2 century” was to become in later years “a stronghold of tradition that continually erected barriers…to further modernization.”
She examines gender relationships and the importance of women in batik production and trade. “It is no exaggeration to say that women were the heart and soul of the community, as they were of the family firm, and that women’s centrality here defined in critical ways the community’s internal social relations as well as its connections with the outside world. “The domestic sphere in Laweyan….revolves around the woman who stands at its core. As the main agents of domestication in the household, women often take on the burden of producing and accumulating not only material wealth but also social status and cultural capital for their families – the latter of which have been inadequately recognized in most studies of Javanese society.” (204)
Details on social interactions (such as the combined arisan-slametan (the first term referring to a social gathering of a women’s rotating credit association combined with a formal religious ritual to commemorate a significant life event such as a death or marriage) provide interesting insights into Javanese culture at the time – how women could be kasar (unrefined or crude) in contrast to men’s interactions having to be more alus (refined or cultured). However, as a female participant observer, with greater access to women’s activities, I wonder how this may have affected some of her observations, especially the stark contrasts between female and male behaviors.
“We will also see how gender itself came to figure prominently in the transformation of Laweyan from a locus of modernity to a site of nostalgia…. It is the belief in the batik industry both as a channel of ancestral value and as a way of asserting their own (tenuous) claims to cultural legitimacy, I would argue, that has led Javanese batik entrepreneurs to cling so tenaciously to this field of business even as they see their own once-substantial profits dwindle to a fraction of what they were in the heyday of the industry.” While I would agree with some of her conclusions, I think there were a number of factors probably responsible for the decline of the batik industry in this area, including changing labor markets (the availability of higher paying jobs for batik workers), inability to access sufficient credit (which she alludes to in other parts of the book), and the rise of crony capitalism (which affected access to credit, among other things). It would have been helpful if she would have incorporated some analysis on the size of batik industry (numbers of firms and workers) that is sustainable in the Indonesian economy at various times, because some consolidation was inevitable in the textile industry, as has occurred in other countries. What is interesting is the continuing role of a range of batik industrial types – from cottage industries of less than 10 workers to factories employing thousands (see descriptions of batik factories in Fraser-Lu).
In examining the modern family and the New Order regime’s gender ideologies and policies, she sees the independence of the female merchant class eroded, but does not see the broader picture of female society as a whole, in particular the female kampong residents whom she earlier had described in rather bleak terms as the batik workers for the female juragan. She described these workers as having an impoverished existence.
Did their condition improve with the New Order, particularly as the number of poor declined so dramatically during the eighties and pre-crisis nineties?
The author sees the modern capitalist state evolving in Indonesia with the separation of home and work place, in contrast to batik industries, which were mostly home-based. As many in the West establish home offices with modern technologies and communications, and there is a better understanding of how innovation occurs – that large industries often rely on smaller firms for innovation, the continuum is not as unidirectional as the author implies. Why cannot this be applied to the batik industry and art form; indeed there are examples of periodic efforts to encourage the batik industry from the time of the Dutch colonialists, during the period of Sukarno and today. A whole range of batik industries continue today, and it would be interesting to analyze in more depth their evolution according to structure and other characteristics, including female participation.
Cassidy, Carol. Beyond Tradition: Lao Textiles Revisited (The Handwoven Textiles of Carol Cassidy). New York: The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 1995. Printed in Hong Kong by Pearl River Printing Company.
I wanted to read this book as an inspiration for opening a gallery, as this American woman has been successful in trying to bridge cultures and bring new technologies and marketing skills to a Southeast Asian country with an impressive textile tradition. Carol Cassidy, formerly a consultant to the United Nations, in 1989 established a business in Vientiane which involves working with and training local Lao weavers and dyers, producing wall hangings, clothing and custom furnishing fabrics which utilize traditional design motifs in making products to meet contemporary market demands. “With the combination of her entrepreneurial skills and her talent as a weaver, Carol Cassidy is a catalyst in the preservation of Laotian weaving. Her fine sense of color and design has resulted in the production of finely made fabrics which draw from and preserve past traditions by bringing them to the present.” (Foreword).
This publication was produced in conjunction with the exhibition, Beyond Tradition: Lao Textiles Revisited that was held June-September 1995 at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. This book, with a brief text and fine quality photographs of contemporary weavings from her workshop juxtaposed to older textiles that serve as the inspiration for contemporary pieces, is itself an inspiration. Photographs also illustrate the weaving process. Weaving types are weft patterning, weft ikat, and interlocking tapestry. I was particularly impressed by the artistry and simplicity of Cassidy’s showroom in Vientiane, which is photographed.
Cote, Joost, Trans. Letters from Kartini: An Indonesian Feminist 1900-1904. Melbourne: Monash Asia Institute in association with Hyland House Publishing Pty. Ltd., 1992.
This book is important because it highlights the “ethical policy” concerns about women and workers during a period of Dutch colonialism. This is the first complete and
unabridged English translation of more than 100 letters which Kartini and her two sisters wrote to her mentor, Rosa Abendanon-Mandiri, wife of the Director of the Department of Education, Religion and Industry of the Dutch East Indies between 1900 and 1904. The original letters, discovered in the early nineties, were edited by F.G.P. Jaquet and held by the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-,Land-en Volkenkunde in its archives in Leiden. The first publication of some portion of these letters was in 1911 in Dutch, followed by various editions and translations in Dutch, Malay, Arabic, Sudanese, Javanese, Indonesian, Japanese and English (the latter first available in 1920 under the title of Letters of a Javanese Princess).
The collection includes letters and details that were considered too sensitive to have been made public in 1911. Kartini and her two sisters were living in the coastal town of Japara on Java The letters are gripping for what they reveal about the aspirations of a bright young Javanese woman who has been exposed to modern ideas and longs for an independence that is in conflict to the adat and traditions of Javanese society at the beginning of the 20th century. Her observations, even to readers today, remain relevant and reflect the tenacity of traditions in Moslem and other traditional societies and the compromises that often must be made to further personal ideals. Kartini reveres much in her own culture, endures hardships, and ultimately compromises her personal desire for total independence by marrying a regent in order to further her goals of education for native women. The book also includes a very useful bibliography of editors of Kartini’s letters, other published writing by Kartini, and a chronological listing of works on Kartini.