The art of batik involves treating the surface of a cloth with wax to make it repel dye. usually requiring several stages of waxing and dyeing to achieve the desired colours and designs. Although primitive forms of resin dyeing are known to have existed in ancient Persia, Egypt, China and Japan, the art of batik making is considered to have reached its peak in Indonesia. The traditional skill, thought to have been introduced to Southeast Asia via caravan and sea routes, was developed with increased sophistication over hundreds of years in the courts of Yogyakarta and Solo in central Java. Retaining their controlled, orderly. geometric patterns in natural sop brown, indigo blue, black and cream. Javanese batiks played a central role in the rank-conscious society.
While batik has survived centuries of religious and colonial change in Indonesia. it is a comparatively recent arrival to the adjacent Malay Peninsula. where initial experimentation led to the emergence of a cottage industry during the 1900s. Primarily produced in the East Coast states of Terengir,anu and Kelantan. Malay Peninsular batiks bear a closer resemblance to the varied palette of bright colours and free designs found in Cirebon. Pekalong-an and lawns, than to the mainly monochromatic Javanese batiks. Both block-printed and hand-drawn batik production flourished in Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula because of readily available raw materials• cotton. beeswax and natural dyes derived from local plants. Although certain motifs and designs were reserved Itir royalty, batik can generally be considered a unique cloth. as it transcends the boundarks of social status. Worn by nobility and peasants alike. batiks arc employed in ceremonial rituals as well as in daily life.
Calligraphic batiks The origins of batik berruhs, or calligraphic batiks, in Southeast Asia arc enveloped in mystery. Most pieces found in museums and private collections have not been properly ascribed because kw production centres were properly documented and the pieces themselves were most likely obtained thorough various intennediaries.17While most of these cloths are attributed to Indonesia, in locations such as Dona., Cirebon. Palembang or Jambi and even a Chinese workshop in Palinerahjakarta,ts there is nothing to suggest that they were not employed widely throughout the Indo-Malay Islamic world. 19 Although most batik bertulis are characterised by the pre& ‘name of blue, there are many examples which have been dyed a rich red, a popular symbol of courage within the Malay world.
The inscriptions found on calligraphic batiks are mostly in Arabic. Examples of those with religious importance are the Basinallah, the Sltahada, the names of God, the Prophet Muhammad, and the names of the Archangels. Common decorative motifs are inscriptions in the form of tughras, birds and lions. as well as reversed or mirrored calligraphy. Other inscribed batiks consist of pseudocalligraphic motifi, which bear inscriptions resembling Arabic letters that do not form me gful
words.The pseudo-calligraphic design may have been deliberate or a result of the craftsperson’s naive interpretation of Arabic lettering. Another common design feature is an arrangement of magical numbers and a network of framed diagrams and patterns. Perhaps only the maker knew the significance of these elements, but users of the cloth seem to have accepted a degree of mystery about them. The strong conviction behind the protective properties of batik bertulis stems from a firm belief in the powerful meaning behind each inscription.
A number of suggestions have been made for the actual uses of these calligraphic batiks. Some ideas are more plausible than others. Square pieces of batik bertulis are commonly worn as men’s head cloths, called the ikat kepala. Head cloths were worn in many pam of Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula. an integral part of tradition and culture. References to them are made in classical Malay literature such as the Hikayat Raja Muda in which the young king Raja Muda wears a head cloth embellished with the Islamic creed when he sets off to seek a wife?”.
While sonic have suggested that calligraphic batiks may have been used as prayer mats, others say it would be inappropriate for a Muslim to kneel on words with religious significance. It is more likely that these cloths were used to cover or wrap Qur’an.; for storage. In reverence of the nicanint‘ul inscriptions on these calligraphic cloths, Muslims would practise great care in their placement and handling. If worn on the body, a Muslim would tint cleanse himself or herself with ritual ablution (wuduk) and at all times will not allow the cloth to fall below the waistline.
Ling, rectangular calligraphic batiks are often referred to as kenufintq in Java and were largely used as shoulder cloths or shrouds. like their square counterparts, these were also fashioned into turban-like head cloths for men. Some sources consider it appropriate that these rectangular batik battik were laid over the deceased prior to burial.They may have also acted as temporary canopies over coffins or tombs. There is also a possibility that they would have been hung over marital beds or bridal thrones. Carried as banners during religious processions or battles, these cloths could have very well served in struggles for independence.The batik bertulis are a testimony to the faith of both the makers and users and attest to the importance of Islam in Southeast Asia.
The Pelangi or plangi cloth (the former is used in the Malay Peninsula and die latter in Indonesia) refers to textiles with a pelangi (literally ‘rainbow’) effect which is achieved through a resist-dye method that does not require the use of wax. Pelangi patterns are not printed, drawn or painted onto the cloth, but instead are achieved by a method where designs are reserved on textiles by a process of tying, gathering, stitching and sewing bctinc dyeing. Motifs produced as a result of tying and gathering are known as pelangi, whereas motifs produced as a result of sewing and stitching create impressions known as rntik. It is most likely that the pelangi was inspired by the tie-dyed banditani cloth, produced in Gujerat and Itaj.uthan and brought to the region by Indian merchants. Pelangi, which is also known as batik pelangi. is olien used as a shawl or breast-cloth.