July 26, 2013

A house filled with Indonesia

Wall filled with ikats, batiks and other fabrics from Indonesia

A short heatwave made blogging a little bit of a challenge, more for my computer then for me, but still, it has been too quiet on De reis naar Batik.
Two weeks back me and Koen went to the National Museum of Ethnology (Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde) in Leiden. Eversince I found an article about the "spectacular donation"* by deceased Fritz Liefkes I have checked their website monthly. The former conservator of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam left them a collection of 750 artifacts from Indonesia mostly from between 1850 till 1950. His only demand was that they made a special exhibition of his collection. And they did!

In the weekend we went, the museum had special activities like making a Wayang doll workshop and Balinese dance. The Balinese dance demonstration was done by the brilliant group Sinar Bulan**. With a lot of humor they explain the differences between Javanese and Balinese dance, show different costumes and make it very accessible. On the end of the day they showed different mask dances from Bali. During the last dance the dancer transformed into an old man. The mask with long grey hair looked funny at first. With her movements she told a story of the difficulty of growing old, really strong and inspiring to see.

The Liefkes collection, a collection build with love, consists of many different objects from very different places. Gold was clearly his favorite material. Next to beautiful jewelry, he owned 450 fabrics of which many were decorated with the prada technique (gold lines on top of Batik patterns) or are embroidered with gold thread.
The entrance of the exhibition started with a great wall full of cloths. A brilliant way of showing them. A simple steel construction and magnets, but what an effect. I was so jealous, but I also realized how great it was that he collected all these beautiful things to later share them with us.

I made a lot of pictures, and still I wish I could have visited the exhibition again. You see so much at once (and it was pretty busy, and that is pretty good) that you miss details or forget to make a picture of a Carolina von Franquemont batik from around 1850, shame on me...
Anyway, enjoy the photos and make sure to visit the museum. They have a great collection, it is a big museum so make it a day to check it out. Me and Koen could only see the Liefkes exhibition, Fetish Modernity, Indonesia and we ran through Japan, China, Korea and Oceania, so we missed the whole of America, the rest of their Asia collection and Africa!

Other side of the wall, also filled with beautiful fabrics. The upper cloth is a ceremonial batik, kampuhan. From the edges filled with trees and chicken, lightning strikes the blue middle part. The middle doesn't represent the night sky, but the balong, the fishpond every acreage On West Java has***
Undermost cloth, a sarong for men. The dark blue batik like a night sky is filled with eight-pointed suns in which the Muslim proverb "Piring aji" is written, next to full moons with a bird in them. It stands for the arrival of Islam***
Detail of chicken on a krudung or mirong, head or shoulder cloth, with prada. Style influenced by Pekalongan. From Cirebon, 1875-1900***
Batik with prada on Chinese silk, the different animals are symbols for all life in the universe, "alas-alasan". Cirebon, 1875-1900***
Detail from "alas-alasan" batik
Batik filled with symbols for fertility. The butterflies stand for long life. The medallions with a flying pair of birds stands for heaven, see next photo***
This kain panjang dlorong or obar abir, hipcloth was probably a weddinggift for a Peranakan bride. The cloth is filled with Chinese mythical creatures like the qilin, a gentle animal with hoofs and scales like a dragon. Cirebon, 1860-1875***

Detail from dodot ageng. Ceremonial cloth made with tritik, tie-dye and prada. Surakarta, mid 20th century***
Sigar with aristocratic male motif made by Raja Aluda Tajularifin, wife of Sultan sepuh XI, during her pregnancy to wish for a boy. The red batik behind it is probably a langit-langit, used to hang above the weddingbed. The paper label on it was probably written by none other than batikexpert Gerrit Rouffaer (1860-1928)***
Dancer from Sinar Bulan

* article 'Spectaculaire schenking voor museum' in De Trouw
** More about Sinar Bulan on their website www.sinarbulan.com
*** explanatory text from bookled 'Een huis vol Indonesië' from Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde

More about the exhibition 'A house filled with Indonesia' on www.volkenkunde.nl

More about the National Museum of Ethnology in my previous post 'Ethnology Museum in Leiden'

July 15, 2013

Batik Statement XV

My cousin Cliff surprised me a few weeks back with his Batik Statement and stack of CD of Indonesian music. It was really nice seeing him, our family isn't really close, so we hadn't seen each other in a long time.
He lent me great modern Indonesian music and brought with him his Batiks with a picture of him wearing the traditional temple clothing of Bali.
I made a collage of the picture with the Batiks and added some flowerpetals for the Bali-touch.

Hope you'll like it Cliff! And hope to see you soon!

Batik from Yogyakarta with prada (gold outlines) on Batik (made with cap & canting) from Bali

Got inspired? Get your Batik on! Make a picture of yourself wearing your favorite Batik and send it to me by email or post it on my Facebook wall. For inspiration see the previous 'Batik Statements' (tip: sunny, nice locations, lots of colors and good memories).

July 13, 2013

Historical fiction

"The Call Of The East", sculpture at Korte Vijverberg 5 in Den Haag

In the Summertime no exotic vacations for me, but I love being at home during this time of year. At my side job I can relax and read, while watching people haste all the way to holiday. I can also catch up on literature and great articles, because all my colleagues are unreachable, blogger had an error with images and our other mac died. Our newpaper spends many pages on art and it's future. "The challenge of artists today is the opposite (of what Pierro Manzoni did): not showing that art is as common as shit, but proving art is as special as gold." and according to Alain de Botton: "Art is a concentrated dose of things that are good in this world. It reminds us what love is, what creativity is, of goodness and freedom. Art can make our lives better, partly because we recognize emotions, and partly because we get in touch with the ones we lost. We have to be so strong, that we forget how to be kind and soft. Art invites us to be kind again."*
It's a pity that only the poor stay-at-homers can enjoy these articles...

Summertime is also the perfect time to travel in books. Even if you are on a bounty island. A few weeks back I went to a lecture about Louise Couperus in Den Haag. I combined it with visiting the exhibition 'The Dutch East Indies in The Hague - A centuries-old bond' in the Haags Historisch Museum and a search for Ring-necked Parakeet and 'traces of emerald'.

"From the seventeenth century, the Netherlands was linked to the Indonesian Archipelago until all that came to an end in 1949. In the period between 1945 and 1966, an estimated 350,000 people relocated from the former colony to the Netherlands, a significant portion of them settling in The Hague. The Hague was an obvious choice: it was home to the Ministry of Colonies and to many institutions and businesses that had traditionally done business in the East. It had everything anyone could need relating to the colony, ranging from shops selling essentials for use in the tropics to Indonesian delicatessens offering authentic ingredients. The Hague offered people on leave from the colony temporary accommodation whilst others prepared for their journey to the Dutch East Indies."**

"De Stille Kracht" with batiked cover

Although we have this historical bond, these memories of the Dutch East Indies are best found in books. Louis Couperus made the Dutch acquainted to lifestyle of people in the Dutch East Indies. This to great displeasure overseas. "De Stille Kracht" ("The Hidden Force") published in 1900 got a lot of criticism. 'Indiëgangers' felt betrayed by their own kind. Couperus came from an upper class family with important positions in the colonial politics. His novel is about decadence and decay in an typical colonial upper class family of that time. It's not anti-colonial, that was a too modern idea for that time, but it was critical about the government in the Dutch East Indies nevertheless.

Doodles by Louis Couperus in his manuscript for "De Stille Kracht"

The other books in the exhibition also show the different lifestyle of the 'indiëgangers'. The romantic Tempoe Doeloe in which belanda's learned about exotic animals and each family had a baboe is evidently the most important memory we have of the Dutch East Indies.

On my way to the museum I got lost and found Hotel Des Indes. I tried to picture the suntanned well dresses people on furlough walking from the entrance, but it felt a bit silly and somehow hard to imagine. After the lecture I continued my search for city parrots and shared heritage. Looking at the sculptures on the building of the former Rotterdamsche Lloyd I felt vicariously ashamed, I couldn't help wondering what good it all did. Not only overseas, but also here. Common men have passed these buildings for a century now and what heritage did it leave them? I think it is great and very important that with the project Sporen van Smaragd this heritage is getting more commonly known.***But it's also good to realize that the romantic stories and memories are from only one point of view. Good for fantasy, not so good for history.

Lange Voorhout 54-56 in Den Haag

Plaats 29-31 in Den Haag

Korte Vijverberg 5 in Den Haag

Korte Vijverberg 5 in Den Haag

Korte Vijverberg 5 in Den Haag

Korte Vijverberg 5 in Den Haag

* quotes translated from articles in De Volkskrant
** Text from the Haags Historisch Museum website
*** More information about the interesting project by Sporen van Smaragd on www.sporenvansmaragd.nl and in my blogpost 'Traces of Emerald'

July 5, 2013

The child is not dead

Nelson Mandela reading Ingrid Jonker's poem "The child is not dead" during his inaugural address to South Africa’s first democratic Parliament, on the 24 of may in 1994, is the first thing I think of when I think about Mandela.
I was only 6 when Mandela was finally released, so I know him more in legend then in memory. His very important legacy shouldn't become a part of history, we have to honor it everyday.
A friend of mine, thanks Thijs, send me a message in Facebook: "I just read that Nelson Mandela is a big fan of Batik blouses". And indeed he is. I said to him, maybe I should write a blogpost about that, and here it is. Googling "Mandela" I found so many lovely pictures of him in beautiful Batik blouses, always smiling.
How great is it that he almost always wears (Javanese) batik!
Another great thing I came across are the memory cloths with Nelson Mandela's portrait on them. Memory cloths ('Herinneringsdoek') are made to honor special events, like the cloth made by Vlisco for Willem-Alexander's coronation*. They can be worn as support or as protest. And are instant collector items.
An ANC supporter hangs a cloth in support of Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital
Memory cloth with images of Nelson Mandela, with the colors and symbols of the ANC (African National Congress), former president of South Africa (1994-1999).
The text on the cloth: "Better life for all, working together for jobs, peace and freedom".
These cloths were really important, because before 1990 it was illegal to own a portrait of Mandela or things with the ANC-colors on it.**
This Vlisco Java pattern was launched because of Mandela’s immense popularity following his release from prison in 1990 and his leading role afterwards in the negotiations for multi-racial democracy. The framework of the design, however, was designed in 1989 to suit different portraits, from Charles de Gaulle to Pope John Paul II.***

The child is not dead
The child lifts his fists against his mother
Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath
Of freedom and the veld
In the locations of the cordoned heart

The child lifts his fists against his father
in the march of the generations
who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath
of righteousness and blood
in the streets of his embattled pride

The child is not dead
not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Philippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain

The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings
the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts
of mothers
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa
the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world

Without a pass

- Ingrid Jonker

* See blogpost 'The day that you knew was coming is finally here'
** Cloth from Tropenmuseum collection
***Text from Vlisco Stories