Indonesian Batik – one of the world intangible cultural heritages

Some of the Batik patterns. 19 of 33 provinces in Indonesia have their own patterns. (Image Source: Unknown. Untraceable)
Some of the Batik patterns. 19 of 33 provinces in Indonesia have their own patterns. (Image Source: Unknown. Untraceable)


For all Indonesian in Qatar: Please come and gather  at Villagio Mall at 4 PM to commemorate 2 October as a Batik Day, like what our fellow Indonesian in Indonesia and other countries do. Wear anything that contains Batik! Be there!

(Source: TentangQatar mailing list)

Finally, another Indonesian cultural heritage is recognized. Batik is inscribed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Batik is one of the 76 cultural heritage that was decided by the 24 Member States of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, currently holding its 4th session in Abu Dhabi under the chairmanship of Awadh Ali Saleh Al Musabi of the United Arab Emirates.


Indonesia – Indonesian Batik – The techniques, symbolism and culture surrounding hand-dyed cotton and silk garments known as Indonesian Batik permeate the lives of Indonesians from beginning to end: infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck, and the dead are shrouded in funerary batik.


To celebrate this long-awaited recognition, President has urged all Indonesia citizens to wear batik on 2 October 2009. Well, the rising of Batik as part of daily fashion is not just recently. Triggered by the claim dispute with the neighboring country, one or two years ago, Batik enjoys its highest popularity. It is not uncommon now that young Indonesian are proud of wearing  Batik,  for going to the mall, to the office (normally during Friday), or simply daily outfit, in addition to standard uses during special occasions (i.e. wedding reception, social gathering, formal meeting).

Batik (Javanese pronunciation: [ˈbateʔ]; Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈbaːtik]; English: /ˈbætɪk/ or /bəˈtiːk/) is cloth which traditionally uses a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. Due to modern advances in the textile industry, the term has been extended to include fabrics which incorporate traditional batik patterns even if they are not produced using the wax-resist dyeing techniques (source: Wikipedia).

How to make Batik?

Melted wax (Javanese: malam) is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. It is common for people to use a mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax. The beeswax will hold to the fabric and the paraffin wax will allow cracking, which is a characteristic of batik. Wherever the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colours are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps.

Thin wax lines are made with a canting, a wooden handled tool with a tiny metal cup with a tiny spout, out of which the wax seeps. Other methods of applying the wax onto the fabric include pouring the liquid wax, painting the wax on with a brush, and applying the hot wax to pre-carved wooden or metal wire block (called a cap or tjap😉 and stamping the fabric. 

After the last dyeing, the fabric is hung up to dry. Then it is dipped in a solvent to dissolve the wax, or ironed between paper towels or newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character. This traditional method of batik making is called batik tulis.

For batik prada, gold leaf was used in the Yogjakarta and Surakarta area. The Central Javanese used gold dust to decorate their prada cloth. It was applied to the fabric using a handmade glue consisting of egg white or linseed oil and yellow earth. The gold would remain on the cloth even after it had been washed. The gold could follow the design of the cloth or could take on its own design. Older batiks could be given a new look by applying gold to them.

The invention of the copper block or cap developed by the Javanese in the 20th century revolutionized batik production. By block printing the wax onto the fabric, it became possible to mass-produce designs and intricate patterns much faster than one could possibly do by hand-painting. This method of using copper block to applied melted wax pattern is called batik cap.

Batik print is the common name given to fabric which incorporates batik pattern without actually using the wax-resist dyeing technique. It represents a further step in the process of industrialization, reducing the cost of batik by mass-producing the pattern repetitively, as a standard practice employed in the worldwide textile industry. (Wikipedia)

I use Batik occasionally for work, primarily on Thursday, our TGIF. The thing is some peoples don’t quite understand what I wear. Some called it’s beach shirt, or some called it a ‘weekend mode’ shirt. No matter what, I am proud of it. Be an ambassador of Indonesia!


One thought on “Indonesian Batik – one of the world intangible cultural heritages”

  1. How we proud with it. Besides that, each island has different in batik, have you bring “ampiek” the unique motif batik of East Kalimantan or “sasirangan” the nice too fron South Kalimantan which is nearly same with “jumputan of javanese. Yap, we proud with the multi-ethnicity of culture.

    But, is there enough books explain it? Moreover in english and having different view to expose……………..seems to difficult find it………

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