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Batik Designs: A Cultural Art Influenced by Changes in Time & Environment

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One of the fascinating characteristics of Indonesian batik is the changes in style, motif and color which have come about through exposure to various foreign cultures. Throughout Indonesian history, each time the rich batik tradition has come into contact with foreigner traders or colonial rulers, they have influenced the development of batik. Some of the more famous results are described below:

Batik Kraton

Batik Kraton is regarded as the basic batik of Java. It is rich in Hindu-influenced motifs that have influenced the courts of Java since the 5th century, and later on influenced by the culture of Islam. The Hindus introduced the sacred bird - Garuda, the sacred flower - lotus, the dragon - Naga and the tree of life. Islam, since it forbids the depiction of humans or animals, brought stylized and modified ornaments as symbols, i.e., flowers and geometric designs.

As a specific attire in the dress code of the courts of Java, Batik Kraton is easily recognized through its sub-divisions, Batik Kasunanan Surakarta, Batik Kasultanan Yogyakarta, Batik Pura Mangkunegaran and Batik Pura Pakualaman. Over time, changes and modifications distinguished Batik Mangkunegaran from Batik Kasunanan, even though both originated from the same source. Batik Pakualaman, from the city of Yogyakarta, originated from both Kasunan and Kasultanan design traditions and is more unique because the whole process was completed in Surakarta.

Batik Belanda

Even though Chinese traders arrived earlier in Java than the Europeans, their influence on batik was evident in a later period. Batik Belanda, literally Dutch Batik, appeared as early as 1840, decades before the appearance of Batik Cina, Chinese Batik. Records show that European settlers on the northern coast of Java started their batik producing activities in the mid-19th century. They pioneered a new era of international enrichment which is still visible in modern day Indonesian batik. Reaching its peak of creativity in 1890-1910, Batik Belanda is clearly recognized through various works of arts named after the great designers. Amongst the most famous of these are Batik Van Zuylen from Elize Charlotte van Zuylen, Batik Van Oosterom from Catharina Carolina van Oosterom, Batik Prankemon from Carolina Josephina von Franquemont, Batik Metz from Lies Metzlar, Batik Yans from A.J.F. Yans, and Batik Coenrad from Coenrad of Pacitan, East Java.

Batik Cina

Highly influenced by the Chinese culture, emerging decades after Batik Belanda, Batik Cina is easily recognized by the vast range of uniquely Chinese motifs including, dragons, phoenix, snakes, lions, traditional Chinese flowers and designs taken from chinaware. It is also easily recognized through its bright as well as pastel colors. In its effort to penetrate the Surakarta and Yogyakarta markets, Batik Cina appeared in two derivatives, Batik Dua Negri and Batik Tiga Negri, processed in the north coastal Pesisiran, Surakarta and Yogyakarta in Central Java. Batik Cina is still in production in the coastal cities of Pekalongan (Oey Soe Tjoen in Kedungwuni), Cirebon, Kudus and Demak. Batik Hokokai

Especially designed for the Japanese during the period that the Japanese occupied Indonesia (1942-1945) the specific designs of Batik Hokokai, which appealed to Japanese tastes, attracted Chinese consumers in Java and Malaya as well. Highly influenced by Japanese design in motifs and coloring, fine intricate backgrounds enhanced the appearance of beautifully designed flowers. Batik Hokokai was mostly styled as Kain Pagi Sore batik with the colors and patterns different on each half of the fabric length. Favorite motifs included Parang and Lereng.

Batik Indonesia

Freedom from Dutch colonial rule introduced new designs to Indonesian batik. In the early 50s, President Soekarno encouraged the creation of a new style of batik, popularly called Batik Indonesia. A symbiosis between various styles of batik, especially of the principalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta and the north coast of Java, which still utilized soga brown as the basic color, Batik Indonesia was developed utilizing bright colors. Some appeared in a totally new design, i.e., Cendrawasih, Sruni, Sandang Pangan, Udang, while still using the traditional processing system. Batik Indonesia is also called Batik Modern.

Batik Sudagaran

An important genre in the development of batik, Batik Sudagaran emerged as early as the end of the 19th century in the principalities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Produced by sudagar or batik merchants, it is easily recognized through the modified classic ornaments styled to the taste of the merchants. Some of the popular creations are the patchwork style Tambal, Parang with the insertion of snail-like motifs, Lereng filled with extra fine spirals called Ukel and Semen that shows high quality workmanship.

Batik Pesisir

The distinctive designs of batik pesisir are those from the northern coastal cities of Java, including Pekalongan and Cirebon. The designs show Chinese influence through their use of brighter colors, flowers and cloud motifs.


This article was developed from information provided by Batik Danar Hadi.

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