Pride & Joy Day 14: Batik

[Today’s donation was made to Transgender District SFClick here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

Batik is the pride and joy of (most) Indonesians, including me. There’s such a rich, artistic history and meaning behind this textile, and in some cases, it’s borderline superstitious – like when we’re not supposed to wear a batik pattern called “parang” (machete) to a wedding because it’s a weapon and would bring bad luck (ie: conflict) to the couple.

The word “batik” came from the Javanese word “amba” (to write) and “titik” (dot). This makes sense since one of the two original forms of batik is made by drawing lines and dots with a spouted tool called “canting” (chun-teeng), also known as “batik tulis” (written batik). The other form uses stamping technique and is called “batik cap” (chupp, meaning stamp). Both of batik tulis and batik cap use wax-dye, applied by either method, to the cloth.

Javanese batik is the most prominent and highly developed, probably because it’s been done by Javanese artists for hundreds of years. All the ingredients needed to make batik (cotton, beeswax, and various vegetables for dyes) are already available in Java. Although the first mention of the word “batik” is in Encyclopaedia Brittanica in 1880 (spelled “battik”), it may have been brought in by Indians or Sri-Lankans in the 6th or 7th century. In October 2009, Indonesian batik was identified by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

I first started wearing batik in junior high. Every Saturday (yes, we had classes on Saturdays like savages), we had to wear batik. I think there was another day when we also wore it but it was such a long time ago I can’t seem to remember which day.

The batik I’m wearing in this series of photos is from Batik Keris, but it’s neither batik tulis or batik cap. The pattern is printed onto the fabric, so it’s a lot cheaper. It’s also more contemporary, with faint traditional elements. I love it because it’s of a peacock (you may have noticed the peacock feather tattoo on my back). I’m not a bird person, but I do love peacocks. They’re gorgeous but their squawks are so hideous. They’re the perfect reminder that everything gorgeous has flaws, and everything flawed has at least one good thing.

I bought this batik shirt when I last visited Jakarta in December 2019. I miss Indonesia every single day and I’m not sure this shirt can cure my homesickness.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.