Abstract–Batik has a long tradition in Java, Indonesia. The ancient periodic patterns contain meaningful symbols some of which have a meaning for the Javanese people even today. Only certain plane groups are used frequently while others rarely appear in a batik pattern. There is a strong relation between symmetry groups present and the symbolic content of a pattern.
Basic textiles as weavings, knitwear etc. are the result of periodic intersections of threads forming a homogeneous texture. These textures can become decorated in different ways.
Embroideries often follow the natural symmetry of the basic textiles. Prints are bound to the printing tools–blocks or machine–which ask for periodic repetition of the unit. However, there is no practical necessity in doing paintings or drawings symmetrically
What does “‘batik” mean?
Batik is an ancient method of textile decoration which has been practiced in many places all over Asia since prehistoric times. In Java, Indonesia the technique was developed more than anywhere else. From here it spread out to European countries during the last I00 years. The names of the tools and even the name “batik” were adopted from the Indonesian language. “Batik” means “drawing with wax” (Fig. 1). Batik is a dyeing process: melted wax is applied on the cloth with a speeial pen called “canting”. It reserves parts of the cloth which shall remain white (or in the present ¢olouO from the hydrous solution of the dyestuff. After dyeing and fixation the wax is removed by boiling. Repetitions of these steps lead to multicoloured patterns.
The vegetable dyes which were the only ones available in the past needed a long time to penetrate the cloth. Under these circumstances direct painting or printing would not give sharp contours because the dye solution would run in all directions without control. Therefore, the resist dye was the only possible way to get colourfast fabrics with distinct patterns.
For whom and for what purpose were batiks produced?
In Central Java a limited range of colours were used to produce loin cloths with patterns of highly symbolic content for the royal courts of Surakarta (Solo) and Yogyakarta. The traditional colours for batiks here are dark blue from indigo and all shades of brown/yellow/red from native plants.
The symbols on these cloths (size ~ 1 x 2.40 m) and their relative positions were regarded as a protection against evil influences. In the eighteenth century a law was enacted which prohibited the use of certain patterns for the public; this law was followed strictly until the Second World War.