THE HISTORY AND TECHNIQUE OF BATIK
The term “Batik” is an Indonesian-Malay word (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malay are the official languages of Indonesia and Malaysia and are linguistically similar). Batik has come to be used as a generic term which refers to the process of dyeing fabric by making use of a resist technique; covering areas of cloth with a dye-resistant substance to prevent them absorbing colors. The technique is thought to be over a thousand years old and historical evidence demonstrates that cloth decorated with this resist technique was in use in the early centuries AD in Africa, the Middle East and in several places in Asia. Although there is no sure explanation as to where batik first was “invented”, many observers believe that it was brought to Asia by travelers from the Indian subcontinent.
Despite the fact that batik may have originated elsewhere, most observers believe that batik has reached its highest artistic expression in Indonesia, particularly in Java. The art of Batik was later spread to the rest of the Indonesian archipelago and to the Malay Peninsula where the popularity of the cloth led to the establishment of many other production centers. Batik has become a very central means of artistic expression for many of the areas of Asia and a deeply integrated facet of Asian culture.
Much of the popularity of Batik can be tied to the fact that the batik technique offers immense possibilities for artistic freedom as patterns are applied by actual drawing rather than by weaving with thread. Another factor in its popularity is the fact that it is so durable. The colors in Batik are much more resistant to wear than those of painted or printed fabrics because the cloth is completely immersed in dye and the areas not protected by resist are allowed to absorb hues to the extent that the colors will not easily fade.
As we noted at the first, batik is now a generic term. Because of the popularity of batik designs, many batik patterns are used in a wide variety of fabrics. Many fabrics are called batik although they were not made in the resist method. Most purists believe that such cloth has a batik like design but is not true batik which is confined to fabrics made through the application of the originally conceived Javanese methods of resist dyeing. Modern designers in Indonesia, Malaysia and to a lesser extent Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere often use batik design elements and often the actual batik clothe in their clothing and accessories. Although most batik fabric is now decorated and tailored by machine, there still remains a considerable market for high-quality, hand-made batik.
Published by: Asia-art.net (http://www.asia-art.net/malaysian_batik.html)
Magic of his shadow play
By Satiman Jamin
KUALA TERENGGANU: Wayang kulit or shadow play master Eyo Hock Seng gave the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration in Kampung Cina here a decidedly 1Malaysia
flavour on Friday night. Local and foreign visitors who thronged the carnival stopped in their tracks and converged near an abandoned two-storey building that
had been turned into a wayang kulit stage as the sound of traditional Malay music signalled the start of the show. Eyo, 55, and his five accompanying musicians were
specially brought in by the carnival committee to tell the story of the Mid-Autumn Festival origin. His 30 years experience as a wayang kulit master or tok dalang
showed through as he artfully mixed the use of traditional characters like Wak Dogol and Sri Rama with kebaya-clad puppets to give his performance a contemporary
touch. “This is the first time ever that i performed in a Mid-Autumn festival celebration,” the only Chinese in Malaysia to master the art of being a tok dalang said in thick
Kelantanese dialect. “I have been dabbling in wayang kulit since I was 9. My parents and the Malay community from whom I learnt the art were very supportive of my
inclination to become a tok dalang,” It was the first time American citizens Molly Smith, 23, Priya Punatar, 23, and Alex Kenyon, 24, saw a wayang kulit performance.
Smith said she had known about wayang kulit but had never come across a live performance. “I came to see the Mid-Autumn festival celebration. It is a pleasant surprise
for us to watch wayang kulit performance here.” Kenyon, who turned 24 on Friday, regarded the show as one of his best birthday gifts. “The shadow play performance
will always be remembered as the highlight of my 24th birthday.”
Thursday October 7, 2010
A colourful wedding steeped in tradition
IT had all the trappings of a traditional Baba Nyonya wedding although it was just a demonstration.
The one-hour showcase was complete with traditional costumes, decorated bridal bed, tea ceremony, Nyonya dance and a joget session.
It was beautifully staged by Focal Concepts Sdn Bhd at the central atrium of Queensbay Mall in Penang as part of The Star’s Now & Forever – A Carnival of Love bridal event.
The Peranakan Bridal Showcase started off with the groom’s entourage, comprising five Babas, going on the stage with siah nah (dowry trays) containing jewellery,
a pair of dragon and phoenix candles (hong leng chek in Hokkien), wedding biscuits, rock sugar and charcoal.
The charcoal is to remind the bride to boil water to make tea for her parents-in-law and for them to wash their face in the morning while the rock sugar is to bless her with a sweet marriage.
Five Nyonyas then went on stage with their siah nah containing four pairs of slippers, hong leng chek, wedding biscuits and liquor to exchange dowries with the Babas.
The groom and umbrella man (best man) then led a troupe of sedan chair carriers, banner holders and musicians on a procession to fetch the bride at her ‘house’.
After consuming a birds nest drink, the groom passed his bride the flower ball and led her to take her seat on the sedan chair before the troupe left for his ‘house’.
During the unveiling ceremony, the bride unbuttoned the groom’s collar button to symbolically undress him while the groom untied her red waist sash that symbolises virginity.
The couple then sat on a bed under which the matron of ceremony placed a basket containing a cock and a hen.
According to traditional belief, if the cock comes out first, it signifies that the first born will be a boy, but if it is the hen that emerges, the first born will be a girl.
The spectators stretched their necks in anticipation. After much prompting and when the hen finally emerged, with feathers shedding, the crowd burst into laughter as the shy cock
remained crouched inside the basket.
Master ofceremony Michael Cheah, who is also Focal Concepts’ Baba Nyonya wedding consultant, said a typical Baba-Nyonya wedding used to last a whole month.
“However, the ceremony is cut short these days with only the key elements being practised, ” he said.
During the tea ceremony, Penang Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang, The Star’s regional manager (operations) Chung Chok Yin and his wife were invited
on stage as the ‘parents’ to symbolically launch the bridal event.
Also present were Japanese deputy consul-general Hiroko Matsuo and The Star’s regional editor (North) Choi Tuck Wo.
Law said Penang, with its affordable cost of living, was one of the best wedding destinations for local and foreign couples.
He said the heritage buildings within the George Town World Heritage Site provided unique backdrops for wedding photos, adding that the state’s beautiful beaches were also good for photo
shoots and a perfect place for wedding dinners.
Sunday October 10, 2010
Pieces of heritage
“I’ve been wearing the sarong since I was small,” says Dr Zulkifli, better known as Zubin Mohamad, currently a Fulbright scholar at the dance department (Southeast Asia) of University of California’s Arts Faculty.
He started wearing it to religious classes. “I can’t remember clearly when, but in Kelantan we had to study the Quran from kindergarten, if not earlier,” Zubin says in an email interview.
What he remembers well is that because his mother had a little business in textiles and jewellery in the village, “we got to wear the best pelikat – Chap Gajah – from Arab Street, Singapore. I got my first sampin songket, a songket Terengganu, probably when I was
In 1985, Zubin bought his first songket – an all-black bunga penuh songket Kelantan from Che Bidah Penambang (a songket brand). He paid RM400 for it.
By then, he knew quite a bit about kain batik Jawa (Javanese batik), tulis (handwritten technique for material) and kain pelikat, having accompanied his mother on shopping trips – “more like work, actually” – to Singapore during the school holidays.
It was a matter of time before he started his own collection, by digging into his cupboard for the pelikat, songket and tenun which he had been wearing.
“I got my first collection of pua kumbu from my student’s mother in Kuching. Apparently that was how he paid his fees every semester. I was in Sarawak for five years and travelled all over Borneo as part of the Borneo Research Council group.”
Naturally, he picked up textiles/sarongs from Brunei, Pontianak, Sambas, Banjarmasin and Samarinda.
“Then I started writing for textile conferences in Java, the World Batik Conference in Jogja and the Singapore Textile Conference at Nanyang Academy. I started looking at Indonesian and Malaysian batik and collected more along the way.”
Zubin’s collection expanded when he moved to Bangkok in 1998.
“I was passionate about research on Langkasuka, as my mother was originally from Pattani. My ancestors were probably from Champa – typical of many Kelantanese. It then that I went on a textile adventure along the Mekong river, and all over Indo China, getting to
know not only textile scholars, collectors and dealers but also weavers.
“I would go to Scot market in Yangoon and buy a gunny sack of sarongs as they are so beautiful and so cheap. Or, I would go crazy in Vientienne and Luang Prabang, the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok and smalls markets like
Batambang in Cambodia.
“First, you will want to get new pieces for their colours and patterns. Then you’d get one piece of an old textile to keep,” he adds.
Presently, his focus is on Southeast Asia. But nothing can compare with the kain limar (limar cloth) given him by his mother, “the most valuable piece” he owns.
“She said it would be mine before she passed away. She asked that we cover her with the kain limar. She is gone, but she is always with me.
“I’m trying to develop my collection with pieces from Kelantan, Pattani, Terengganu and Pekan, the kain limar, songket and tenun. What I would like to do is compile a book on my collection.
“Now that I am in California, I’m also trying to understand the Indian and Mexican textiles. I wish to visit the Mayan Temple in Cancun and, hopefully, organise a Mexican textile exhibition in the future!”
For Zubin, the sarong represents civilisation. He says: “We were travellers of the world; the Malays were a civilised race, well travelled, well mannered. An old textile give us a taste of tradition and heritage. Looking at old works reminds me of our glorious past.”
Penang-based graphic artist Ooi Poh Khoon became interested in the kain pelikat when, as a young boy, the bus that took him to school daily passed by Tanjung Tokong, a predominantly Malay community.
“What I liked seeing was the men wearing kain pelikat around the house or the surau. Or, sarongs hanging on fences to dry. I admired their colours and designs. Of course I wanted to buy one for myself, but I couldn’t afford it then. I was too short to wear it too.”
Today, 12 years after he started buying sarongs, he has 350 pieces in his collection.
“I have to hold myself back from buying more. There are just too many to keep in my room and my mum nags me about, saying, ‘Even the Malays don’t have so many sarongs as you do!’”
Ooi, 30, likes the bigger checked designs, and favours the colour blue.
“The material is the most important factor when choosing what to buy,” he says. “In our climate, cotton sarongs are preferable to the tetron/polyester/cotton combinations. Cotton sarongs are mainly from India while the mixed fabric ones come from Indonesia.”
But Indian cotton sarongs are slightly narrower and shorter than those from Indonesia, thus they may not be as comfortable for those who are bigger. The colours for Indonesian sarongs are more vivid too, he adds.
Ooi gets his sarongs from the Penang Bazaar at Penang Road. To him, the sarong transcends borders.
“It can be part of a heritage or tradition depending on your culture or race. It’s the uniqueness of wearing the sarong that makes us all Malaysians.”
THE BAJU KURUNG
The Baju Kurung, or more specifically, the Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga, is the Pahang traditional Malay costume for women.
And in more “modern” times, we have the Baju Kebaya, more specifically the Baju Kebaya Turki (also known as Baju Riau-Pahang or Baju Belah), become another popular and favorite attire for ladies in Pahang.
Well, just go to any Malay house, open the cupboard of the lady in the house, and you can definitely find at least one Baju Kurung dress in the wardrobe, if not a full line of the traditional Malay women costume.
This is because even though some women prefer modern western attires, the Baju Kurung is still an elegant and sweet dress for women in Pahang and Malaysia.
And worn with matching shoes and handbag, well the lady will look… should I say… demure… charming and… with a well mannered poise — ahh, a real lady.
POPULAR ATTIRE FOR ALL
That is why in Pahang and in fact in Malaysia, we will find not only the Malay women dorning the Baju Kurung, but other Malaysian races too, like the Chinese, Eurasians, Indians, Ibans and Kadazans.
They put on the Baju Kurung not only when attending formal and ceremonial occasions, but also for the office.
Besides adding extra elegance, simple beauty and style to the wearer, the Baju Kurung, since it is loose fitting, is very comfortable to wear in the hot and humid weather of the equatorial climate.
Being a very loose fitting attire, even fat or pregnant ladies will look smart and elegant in the Baju Kurung.
So although it is the traditional Malay costume and appropriate wear and attire for traditional occasions like weddings, engagements and public functions, the Baju Kurung is also popular and worn daily by the masses for comfort.
More so to the Muslim women, the Baju Kurung also fits and conforms with the Islamic requirement to enclose the body (except the face and hands) and that clothes should not be tight and body hugging as to show the outlines of the wearer’s body.
BRIEF HISTORY OF BAJU KURUNG
The Baju Kurung for women, like the Baju Melayu for the men, is said to originate from the Malaysian state of Johore about 200 years ago and is said to be styled and fashioned by the late HRH Sultan Abu Bakar of Johore in 1866.
It was said that HRH fashioned and popularized the attire to reminisce and leave a legacy following the change of the Johore state capital from Teluk Belanga to Johor Bahru (new name for Bandar Tanjung Puteri).
This Baju Kurung Teluk Belanga for both men and women was popular during the Sultan’s reign as he regularly wore this style, and made it the official attire of the Johore Malays.
Teluk Belanga is located on the island of Singapore and was the administrative center of the Johore Sultanate before it moved to Johor Bahru.
Singapore was made a crown colony of Britain in 1867 and became part of Malaysia in 1963 until it left to be on its own in 1965.
END OF SIDE-NOTE
Although HRH Sultan Abu Bakar was credited as the designer of the Teluk Belanga style, there are also views that the loosely fitting Baju Kurung had been in existence and had been worn by Malay ladies since the times of the Malacca Empire in the 15th Century.
Perhaps it may be noted that in the old days, for protocol reasons, the wearing of attire during official ceremonies involving the Sultan and palace officials are guided by a dress code.
For instance, Malay women are prohibited from wearing the “takwa” dress. This is a long dress like the modern Baju Kebaya, and it has a row of loops for buttons at the front and also at the end of the long sleeves.