Why a batik for JIS ?
One of the main reasons for the UNESCO inscription of Indonesian batik as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” is batik’s unusual ability to speak through its patterns, its symbolism which is in danger of being lost to humanity. Speaking through symbols is an ancient way of keeping people in touch with their spiritual background and moral obligations so as to maintain peace and promote general well-being. The various motifs we now take for granted were originally designed for a specific purpose – to convey messages that could be generally understood. Unfortunately the interpreters are dying and the new generations no longer understand the meaning of the symbols in the batiks they treasure.
One of the dreams that emerged from the Dream Summit was a desire to strengthen our connections with Indonesia. What better way than to create a unique batik, using the traditional symbols, that has a specific meaning for JIS, thereby helping to preserve the symbolic heritage of our host country.
The basic design is the Sido – a lattice of four diamond shaped voids, creating one large diamond shape. Sido is a Javanese term which implies hope that whatever is expressed in the motifs enclosed in the lattice will become a reality – our dreams.
The “laths” of the Sido are composed of leafy vines. The inspiration came from the vines that are wrapped around the trees on JIS’s campuses. They represent our connections with each other, with Indonesia and with the world around us. Vines are tenacious and hardy, clinging to flourish as students should be to their studies in order to succeed.
The diamonds are organized in clusters of four centering on an 8-petaled flower which has been extracted from the highly significant teruntum batik pattern – traditionally worn by a mature couple when carrying out their highest responsibility: the marriage of their daughter. Teruntum can be interpreted in many ways: to be responsible, to nuture children, to grow and to blossom, to lead by setting a good example and to work together for general well-being, among others. Each petal of the flower is often seen as a symbol of the Stupa that, with its spire, points to the Ultimate – implying that one should remember one’s responsibilities and obligations.
There are eight petals radiating from a central point. These petals mark the eight compass directions. In Javanese cosmogony, order was created out of chaos by marking out the compass directions from the core at the very centre of all things and setting a boundary around the whole. This represents a safe space in which activities can be performed without hindrance or danger – a place to take risks without fear. This is also iterated in the placement of four diamonds around a centre and the shape of the diamond itself – the points representing north, south, east and west.
Based on the Pattimura Tree, around which JIS was originally built, the tree of knowledge is deeply rooted in the earth and grows straight and strong upwards to its many-branched canopy. Before we can fly in the direction that our dreams take us, we need to establish deep roots and strong habits as effective learners.
Motif 2: Cakar
The cakar motif is derived from the Hindu cakra or cakram, weapon of Visnu, the Protector and the ever-turning wheel of life of Buddhism. The motif may have arrived in Indonesia via the trade in Indian textiles since the 4th or 5th century as the circular motif is found on the double-ikat patola silks from India that were highly prized in Indonesia. Javanese word-play has turned the name into cakar which means scratching, as a hen is constantly scratching in the earth to keep her family fed. It represents the perseverance and hard work required to succeed.
In the Ramayana story, Jatayu was so devoted to Rama’s father that he gave up his life in an attempt to save Sita, Rama’s wife, as she was being abducted by Rahwana. Though fatally wounded, he lived long enough to be able to tell Rama what had happened. His presence on the batik represents loyalty – true compassion for a friend.
Motif 3: The Dragon (Naga)
The dragon is a Chinese symbol that has been absorbed into Indonesian art. To the Chinese he represents good fortune and symbolizes many things such as happiness, perseverance and excellence and the ability to overcome all obstacles to achieve success. The Naga is seen as the Guardian of the Earth.
The design of the Naga in the batik is based on the JIS dragon fountain on the Cilandak campus – a Balinese design (as is the design of Jatayu). The faces have been changed to the comical designs of Javanese Naga’s to represent Fun and make us smile.
The juxtaposition of Jatayu and the Naga represents balance between the earth (Naga) and the sky (Jatayu). The use of two colours in the batik is also about maintaining balance and harmony – yin and yang.
Bringing the JIS batik design to reality is a true example of Passionate, Inquisitive and Creative forces at work in the form of Judi Achjadi, an expert in batik design from the Heritage Society who helped present the case for batik to UNESCO, and Chossy Latu, a renowned fashion designer who works with traditional batik artists to create unique fabrics for his designs. By exploring the design, finding the many layers of meaning and creating our own interpretation of the messages therein, we can each learn how to be best for the world by protecting something that is in danger of being lost.