All About Batik

Batik cloth
Batik-dyed cloth. Photo by
Martijn.

The ancient art of creating batik cloth been practiced since at least the 4th century BC. While batik has a history in Egypt, China, Japan, and India, the country known best for this art form is Indonesia where batik has thrived for centuries, most especially on the island of Java.

What exactly is batik? It’s cloth created using a wax-resist dyeing technique. Patterns are “painted” on the cloth in wax before it’s dyed. The areas covered by wax are protected from the dye and don’t take on the color. After dyeing, the cloth is dipped into boiling water to remove the wax. More wax patterns might then be added to the cloth before dyeing it again, and this whole process is repeated until the colors and patterns are just right.

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Traditionally, the wax is applied using a tjanting, a wooden tool with a copper cup attached. The cup has a small spout out of which the wax can flow. Another method of creating batik uses stamps to apply wax in repeating patterns on the cloth before dyeing.

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In 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and encouraged the Indonesian government to support its preservation as an art form. If you want to see some of these fabulous artists in action, and learn a bit more about this ancient art form, check out this video about Javanese batik, posted by UNESCO.  

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