building a relationship with ‘batik’



Living life as an Indonesian-born witnessing only the Australian world, I always viewed my own birth country as something very curious. All I knew was that Indonesia’s major religion was Islam, the country was humid and tropical, and that the food was delicious.

One day, when I was looking for something, I came across my parents’ mass of batik clothing. All the loud and traditional patterns piled up, one on top of the other. Shades of brown and yellow, with splashes of grey, red and blue. I took some out and presented them to myself in the air, and it made me feel weird. This was a big part of me, yet why does it feel so foreign to me?

I used to be ashamed if my parents made me wear batik. As with many modern Indonesians, batik was no longer a pride of our country. I knew that my birth certificate was proof that I had royal blood, as there is Raden Roro before my name. But was it really true that batik was used only by sultans and noble people?

I grabbed the batik and shoved them into a duffel bag, bringing them to Wollongong. Though thoroughly mesmerized, my friend agreed to partner me in dressing up and photographing the clothes. I then decided to also photograph the material of the batik – noting all the beautiful patterns, flowers and motifs. Creating batikchild allowed me to be a newbie to the culture and share the garment, alongside with facts to utilise full ‘knowledge-sharing’. 

So far, this is my personal narrative as I view myself as the phenomenon and document my life in a cultural context in order to understand myself better. However, as Ellis et al. (2003) argued that this type of research was controversial due to lack of ‘traditional analysis and/or connections to a scholarly literature’, [Ellis et al, 2011] I’d taken on to see it more analytically. I embarked on a quest to look at traditional scholarly articles and contemporary videos on batik. I intended to improve on my ethnographic practise, to commit to the use of ‘theoretical and methodological tools and research literature.’ [Allen, cited in Ellis et al. 2011]

The research truly awoken a part of me, it gave me the fire I needed to embrace the new (yet old, just hidden) part of my cultural identity. It gave me another epiphany: I, – as a woman of pure 100% Javanese blood, – would have to admit that I still feel like a child with my knowledge of our culture’s textile history. Atleast, I’m learning and embracing it now. With this, I am able to claim that I’ve reflexited on myself and am speaking about my views on (not the concept of) batik with authenticity. [Dubrovsky and Wood, 2014] 

Additionally, I was truly able to invest in this research with both roles of being a clueless outsider yet an insider; allowing me to be an auto-ethnographer that exists as a guiding presence in my text. [Denzin, 2003] It would be entirely wrong for me to claim I know everything about batik, but my growing knowledge on it will do my family proud. 

I started off with my Instagram page to show the aesthetics of the foreign textile and share knowledge, then approached making a website for an extra platform that contained some of the photos and more information on batik. Further, I gathered more knowledge and created a short informative podcast for those viewers who may want to know a bit more. My target audience was local friends who are interested in foreign cultures and younger Indonesians who may be quite severely subtracted from their ancestor’s traditions.

REFERENCES: (2019). Nuri Ningsih Hidayati | Benang // Thread in Indonesian. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Denzin, N. (2003). Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 25(3), pp.257-278.

Denzin, N. (2003). Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 25(3), pp.257-278.

Dubrofsky, R. and Wood, M. (2014). Posting Racism and Sexism: Authenticity, Agency and Self-Reflexivity in Social Media. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 11(3), pp.282-287.

GALLI CREATIVE (2017). BATIK OF JAVA: A VISUAL JOURNEY. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

McCabe Elliot, I. (2013). Batik. New York: Tuttle Publishing.

Murray, K. (2013). Batik Dreaming in Central Java | Craft Unbound. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

PPI Australia Official (2018). Brief History of Batik || Hari Batik Nasional 2018. Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2019]. (2019). The Island Gallery : ISNIA : Agus Ismoyo & Nia Fliam. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].

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