In the Javanese culture, batik symbolizes a philosophy of the importance of life, the cycle of birth, marriage and death. Batik is an important part of each of these mile- stones in a person’s life. Most Javanese start their lives wrapped and carried about in batik as babies, elaborately dressed in batik when they get married and when it is time for them to leave this world, their bodies are covered with batik during the funeral.
In addition to the philosophy of life symbolized by batik, Indonesian batik has ritu- alistic significance. Objects like flowers, trees, birds, twinning plants, leaves buds, but- terflies, fish, insects and geometric forms are rich in symbolic meaning. Although there are thousands of different batik designs, particular designs have traditionally been as- sociated with traditional festivals and specific religious ceremonies.
The majority of motifs are taken from nature, leaves, flowers, mountains, water, clouds, and animals. These motifs often represent religious or mystical symbols related to the early beliefs of the Javanese people and then later to Hinduism. These motives represent simple, natu- ral objects that are important to the lives of Javanese, such as the leaves of the ‘aren’ palm or the fruit from the ‘kapok’ tree.
When Islam entered Java and was embraced by the ma- jority of the people, Islamic prohibitions against showing human figures or other living creatures slowed down the development of many art forms, including batik, in areas where Islam was strong. At the same time, certain motifs that had been favored and even restricted to the royal families, especially in batik designs for the Surakarta and Yogyakarta royal families, one of which is called parang rusak or the broken Keris, became available to the general public with the democratization introduced by Islam.
Modernization and Evolution of Batik Modern batik, which evolved from the traditional art, utilizes linear representations of leaves, flowers and birds. It is the designer that determines the design rather than the traditional guidelines that traditional craftsmen have faithfully adhered to from generation 14 Batik The Cultural Beauty to generation. This is also apparent in the use of color that modern designers use. Ar- tisans are no longer dependent on traditional (natural) dyes, but have the freedom to experiment with a rich array of colors that chemical dyes can produce. Nevertheless, modern batik still utilizes the traditional tools of batik, i.e. the canting and the cap to create their intricate modern designs. Thus, the horizons of batik are expanding but their roots are still deeply buried in tradition.
Although the process of making batik remained basically the same over several centuries, the process has made great progress in recent decades. Traditionally, batik was sold in 90 X 250 centimeter lengths used for wrap skirts (kain panjang) to be used with a ‘Kebaya’ or blouse, which form the basic pieces of the Indonesian traditional dress for women. Nowadays, batik is not only used as a material to clothe the hu- man body, but it is also used as furnishing fabrics, heavy canvas wall hangings, tablecloths and household accessories. In addition, batik techniques are used by artists to create batik paintings which beautify many homes, offices, hotels and other public buildings.
Machine Printed Batik Textile Another influence of modern technology is the production of batik textile which is the printing of Batik designs on cotton or syn- thetic fabrics using modern machinery. As a result, the process is quick, low cost and easy to produce; however, mass production cannot produce quality art. Batik textile is mainly used for school and office uniforms and household utilities.
The emergence of print and stamp batik produced by modern machines on a large scale has adversely affected batik tulis on the market. This is because factory made batik is much cheaper in price compared to batik tulis. Furthermore, the designs of the factory produced batiks which integrate contrasting colors and modern designs have a much stronger appeal to the younger generations than the traditional batiks such as batik tulis which has preserved its characteristic colors of brown, blue, black and yellow and its traditional motives of animals and flowers which are also consid- ered somewhat monotonous.