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What is the History of Batik = What is Batik?

By: Michiel Van Kets

Most people have heard of Batik but many are not really aware of the process of batik or the history behind the origins of batik. Batik is an ancient craft dating back centuries and relates to hand drawing or hand painting involving wax. Wax-resist dyeing is the definition of the art of historical batik.

Wax is painted on to the fabric and the color is filled into the fabric between the wax. The instrument stated as used for this particular art form in Javanese cultures was called a canting. This is an item in design similar to a pen that was used to apply the design with the wax directly to the cloth. The wax is placed to stop the color running through to the next color of the design.

The wax is then later washed from the cloth leaving only the color hence the white lines you will always see on batik. There are then of course a variety of designs that are sold as batik but are actually made using more traditional methods and while the look may be similar they are not in fact original or true batik.

Batik is considered a traditional art in many Asian countries. In Javanese the definition of the word Batik is writing with wax. In Indonesia for example there are traditional batik colors mostly darker shades of indigo, dark brown, white and violet, which are used in representation of four main Hindu Gods. Other countries in Asia, as stated, are also traditionally using batik techniques, such as India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma etc. There are also some West African countries such as Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda among others which also use batik all of which will be in varying degrees of the same original historical form of batik.

1500 years ago you could also find the wax style batik cloth in Egypt and the Middle East. Today you will find that Batik is a more commercial form of artwork often on sale in tourism rich countries for purchase by travelers. Almost all Asian countries will be offering up modern and traditional designs of batik and you will be amazed at what there is available however whether they are creating original historical forms of batik or not can only be known by requesting to visit with the artist while they are in fact creating. Of course if they are carrying out the traditional form of batik you, having been made more aware of what the art actually is, will be able to immediately tell for yourself if they are original batik designs or just a very good impression of this ancient art form.

Many Javanese temples also have beautiful stone statues sculptured on their walls however confirmed historical proof of these designs being batik is as yet to be determined. They could in fact have been created using a weaving technique rather than the traditional batik. No doubt in the future there will be proof of these facts and it will be clear which traditional and historical art form was used in the creation of these amazing designs.

It is also said that there were specific Batik designs that were created for Javanese royalty and these particular patterns can only be worn by royalty whilst other regions in Indonesia offer their own patterns unique to their region. There are others however who deny that batik was meant for royalty alone and that it was a form of art created for all people.

Thanks to modernization you are easily able to purchase batik. Whether it is traditional or not you now have the tools to check for yourself. If the artist is not willing to show you how they are creating the designs then it is in all likelihood that they are using a modernized form of batik and therefore while still beautiful you will not be purchasing a traditional batik. Therefore just because the cost of a particular batik is perhaps more than another it does not also mean that it is original.

Ask the artist to show you their work space and see for yourself whether you are getting the real thing. If you find you are not do not despair you will come away with a wonderful piece of art work either way to add style and flair to your home just donít go passing it off as an original batik!

Batik is considered a traditional art in many Asian countries. In Javanese the definition of the word Batik is writing with wax. In Indonesia for example there are traditional batik colors mostly darker shades of indigo, dark brown, white and violet, which are used in representation of four main Hindu Gods. Many Javanese temples also have beautiful stone statues sculptured on their walls however confirmed historical proof of these designs being batik is as yet to be determined.

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