November 25, 2016


Stasiun Tugu in Yogya

On the ferry to Madura

This passed week, 10 till 19 November, was about friends. Making new friends, visiting old friends and missing friends. Times are tough and I hope this post will offer some distraction. 
I'm writing this in the train from Jember to Yogya on Saturday the 19th of November after seeing my dear friend Denny again after 7 years. But first let me share "my trip" that was indeed "my adventure".
My visit to Madura was a seed planted many years ago. In 2009 I had a nice conversation with my hotel neighbor. It was on the my last days of my first journey and she told I should visit Madura next time.
About two years later Rusmilawati was studying in Leiden so we met again. She invited me to visit Madura again if I went to Indonesia. Preparing for this second journey, I of course contacted her.
Wien, as her friends call her, is now doing her PhD in Solo and is a lecturer at the University. 
On the beginning of my journey I met her in Solo at the Payung Festival (see blog post 'Yogya & Solo').
Our journey to Madura started on Thursday 10 November early morning by train to Surabaya. From there we would take the ferry.

Already in the train I noticed the landscape changing with more open spaces and hard working people. In Surabaya we got picked up by old students of Wien, now lawyers. We had lunch at, I think, a famous place 'Bu Rudy' and I was enjoying seeing a bit from this city from the car.
At the port we ran to catch the ferry, but missed it. Well we could have jumped for it, but I rather missed it this way.
Waiting for the ferry, I already spotted some nice traditional Madura Batiks being worn by the sellers of soda & snacks. 
On the ferry I felt so excited, I don't know what it is about going to islands, but it is such a great feeling of adventure. Of course Java is an island too and Madura is really, really big, but still.

It was the Lampion Festival that weekend, so the port was decorated with beautiful lanterns. Wien's father picked us up in his mini-van and I felt like entering a different world. I can't explain exactly what makes it so different, but don't believe the blablabla on Java.
Everything looks really pretty. All the public green in the more city area's are managed with real care. Amazing for this weather, I can not keep my garden so neath and we have like no Summer! We passed houses with bright colours and fields with trees very different from Java. I liked Madura instantly.

Made of bottles and plastic spoons

Peacock made of a tire & cd's

The next day I went with Wien to her campus. The highest building on Madura is on the campus of the university. How smart are these people! The world can learn something from this!
In the afternoon we headed towards to Lampion Festival. Unfortunately there was no program yet and rain started soon after our arrival. We walk around looking at the lanterns till the heavy rain made us look for shelter. One of Wien's friends just arrived when the rain start pouring down. It was strange and fun at once. The rain turned the festival terrain into a river, so the program for the evening got cancelled. When the rain didn't get less, Wien's brother kindly picked us up, saving us from a very wet motorcycle ride.


"Strawberry" design

Batik Tulis design should be two sided drawn with wax

On Saturday the friends with whom we hide from the rain, joined us in our journey to Batik. Because I don't know much about Batik from Madura I was very happy we got someone who arranged a meet with a Batik seller and maker. We headed towards Tanjung Bumi. A bumpy ride, but with great views over land and sea.
We first went to the Batik seller. To my surprise the Batiks were only draw on on one side. So only the front had a clear design. But I was pretty sure it is was not printed. I didn't know if this was something typical for Madura Batik or that there was something wrong, but I learned I should trust my knowledge about Batik more if I feel it is not right. I picked out some pieces with a more visible design on the back and asked for the prices. I thought they were a bit high for one sided Batik Tulis and I saw her quickly removing a price sticker of one of the Batiks I opened. I couldn't figure what was going on. We went to meet one of "her batikmakers. The batikmaker was a kind women, but I saw non of the batiks the seller sold back in her handwriting. She showed some finished pieces of which one had some elements I saw before. I had the feeling she was not the maker. 
I liked one design very much at the seller, a modern one with a motif of "strawberries", so I asked if she was the maker. I got from her a surprised face and later Wien told me the seller was urging us to go when I start asking more questions.
Back at the home of the seller, I did bought some of the neater made pieces batiks. I let her know before that I thought the prices were a bit high and she ended up raising them even more...
Feeling a bit distressed, our guide said softly when we were back in the van, yes its true, she raised the prices. At that point I  was just hoping I didn't buy fake batiks...
After seeing a new, yet still magical and my first mangrove ever, Wien showed the bought Batiks to a neighbor, her mother and brother. They actually said I made good chooses. They had no explanation about the back of the pieces, but said the process of the Batik was "unfinished". There is a slow, long process on Madura of keeping the batiks in clay to make the colours different and the fabric more soft. These batiks had some treatment, they have a kind of shimmery, but not the whole process was completed.
My own theory now about this seller is that she sells mistakes. So Batiks she can buy for a lower price because something in the process went wrong. I still think and hope it is actual Batik Tulis.

The actual "Strawberries" are I think a classic design based on a cactus fruit that is eaten on Madura

Batik at Tresna Art

Traditional breakfast in the garden of Tresna Art

On Sunday we went to another Batik place. A shop in Bangkalan of which I had no expectations being familiar with Batik shops in Yogyakarta. But Tresna Art is truly something else. In a beautiful building with batik makers at the entrance and all shorts of Maduran traditional things, I saw the true Madura batiks. Really detailed, very fine and very expensive. I regretted I spend my money already somewhere else...
Because it was Sunday there was even free traditional breakfast in the garden. The garden was wauw! With traditional buildings, bonsai's, cactuses and exotic birds. After the breakfast and lunch we were asked if we wanted to see the batikmaking. But of course!

Ibu Sofi

Ibu Sutyah

One of the batik makers stopped when we were watching and I wondered why. I asked some questions about the motifs and realized this pembatik had only one arm. Ibu Sofi told she started making batik from the age 10. We asked if she wanted to show us. Her work is really detailed and it is empowering she created this with only one hand. She uses her knee to put the fabric on. Normally the other hands guides the textile and keeps some distance between the hot wax and the skin. So a tough lady who makes the finest art!
The pembatik next to her, Ibu Sutyah, started asking Wien why I was on Madura, probably noticing my interest in Batik. She got really angry, or at least thats what Maduran sounds like to me, when Wien told her about our experience the day before. Apparently the seller we met is know for her too high prices and she said: Why you didn't come here first? She explained that the owner of Tresna Art is a true supporter of Batik and other traditions. She is fair to the batik makers and helps preserving the technique of the clay and other important things for Madura Batik. I was told people from Madura are known for their direct character and I believe she was not saying these things just to please the boss.
She said that next time I visit Madura, I first come to Tresna Art and she will be my guide to her village. A village were most people make Batik. She said "They are true and honest people and will show you the Art of Batik of Madura." I can't wait!!

Thank you Rusmilawati for inviting me to your wonderful home on this beautiful island. I hope I can explore more of Madura and its fascinating Batik culture in the future. Wonderful to meet your family and friends and so funny we are now on the same train!!

November 24, 2016

Go back and get it

Returning back to Yogya on Saturday 29 October was also the start of my last month on Java. I can't believe how fast the two months before passed. At the same time I can't believe how much I have done in these two months. 
Because the first two months of my journey almost ended, I needed to extend my visa for one more month. So three days were reserved for that, but happy to add 30 more days to my adventure.
My stay in Yogya made it possible to have some nice meets. 

Ine, a dear friend from the Netherlands, happened to be on Java. She invited me for a touristic day in Yogyakarta on Tuesday the 1st of November. 
I didn't had time for that before, so it was great to do some classic things. 
She invited me to Kota Gede. Kota Gede was where the first capital of Mataram Sultanate was established in the 16th century. By the mid-18th century, Mataram lost both power and territory to the Dutch East India Company. The neighborhood of Kota Gede nowadays includes the remains of the palace, the royal cemetery and the royal mosque. A labyrinth of entrances leads towards the royal cemetery and the bathing place. Along the way you see beautiful ornaments in the walls. I was looking for motifs found in Batik, but these motifs made me think of Adinkra symbols from Ghana instead. Looking them up now, they aren't actually similar, maybe in the abstract line, but not in design. Especially the one of the birds facing each other...In my memory there is a symbol like that, but I can only find the one with the bird turning her head to put an egg on her back: 'Sankofa'**. It symbolizes taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge. 
Maybe it was not coincidence. Well probably not. The stay in Yogyakarta was marked by re-visiting and being confronted with the past. Not necessarily mine...

After Kota Gede we headed for the Kraton. I've been there before in 2009 (see post 'Sultan Palace') but only parts of it I recognized. It was much bigger then I remembered. There was a very nice exhibition with photos and Batiks that I liked better then the part you're not allowed to photograph. The photos from, I think, the seventies showed an insight of life in the Kraton. They reminded me of my grandfathers slides. The photos show certain rituals that reminded me of my own work. Some photos were combined with batiks showing which patterns are used for which specific ritual.

Sultan Hamengku Buwono X at the Big Mosque celebrating Sekaten by spreading udhik-udhik in the form of yellow rice, flowers and coins

Next stop was Fort Vredenburg. I never been there before and I couldn't recall the correct history, but when we got there I knew why I never been. I don't really like to go to these kind of places. I don't enjoy being there, and well, maybe that's the point. 
With dioramas important scenes from Javanese culture are re-told. The begin part I could handle pretty good, the last part not so good. The rooms seemed to get much colder the closer history got to today. The images became more gruesome. With a national song on a loop playing loudly in the last room, I felt already afraid to face every new scene. Arriving at the end of the hallway, I turned the corner and was confronted with a life size scene from the war or as we Dutch would say "de politionele acties'. It was just a flash and I was outside in a second catching my breath and swallowing my tears.
I think for people with a close connection to this part of our shared history, they can maybe better skip the last part of this exhibition, or be aware that it might be very unpleasant.

Diorama of first Indonesian women congress on 22 December 1928

The next day I was going to meet Annegret Haake and Hani Winotosastro again (see post 'Jogja International Batik Biennale'). Annegret, the German Batik lover and researcher, gave a lecture at Balai Besar Kerajinan dan Batik (The Center for Crafts and Batik) about 'Symmetry in traditional Javanese Batik patterns'. I never heard of this center before, but with this journey I'm surprised every time of what I know and of what I never heard of at the same time. 
The lecture reminded me of what makes me connect to Batik. It is creating balance without calculation. The more calculated a design is, the less I like it. 
After the lecture we headed to Batik Winotosastro in Hani's brilliant egg-yellow Daihatsu. Returning back to Jalan Tirtodipuran brought back many memories of my first journey to Batik. What a difference between the me now and then. I remember sitting trembling, only 3 days after my arrival, trying to make a small Batik at  'Batik Winotosastro'. My second return to this street was a much relaxer one. I met the batikmakers in Jeruk, my friend Barbara was soon going to join me and I felt more confident after my stay in Semarang. 
Now two months in my journey, 7 years and one month later, I could just enjoy looking around, listening to Annegret explaining about Winotosastro's legacy and be me.
The Batiks from these workshop are a bit to perfect for my taste. Really, the technique is so good, that it seems impossible to be made by human hands. 
After looking around at the workshop, me and Annegret went for lunch. We ended up at Tante Lies were I shared many nice talks and ice tea's with Denny & Barbara in 2009.
Nice to return to this starting point and I'm looking forward to meet Annegret in the near future nearer to my home to talk some more Batik!

On Tuesday 1 November the royal cemetery at Kota Gede was closed, so me and Barbara returned on Sunday 6 November to go inside. Just like at Imogiri you have to be dressed in Batik for this. It was very busy when we arrived, but we were alone when we got inside. I waited outside to give Barbara her space, enjoying the serene atmosphere of the place. Aldo Kota Gede is a very busy area, I heard only birds singing. The guard who accompanied us started sharing stories. New visitors arrived so we moved from sitting at the entrance to sitting behind a tomb. It was an interesting display and Barbara laughed when she came outside.

My stay in Yogya ended with Trump being elected. I picked up my passport the day before and was preparing for my journey to Madura from where I'm writing this post now. I followed the election step by step, thanks to the timezone I'm in, and it felt surreal seeing the number of votes for Trump growing and growing. Not that I would have been been happy if Hillary was elected. But still...

"Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi" **
We must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated. What the future will bring, no one knows. But we know from our past which future we don't want. Still this man got elected... so... now what?

November 12, 2016

My Last Jakarta FashionWeek Day

I wore Batik every day I went to JFW2027

The last Jakarta FashionWeek day I attended was a truly Traditional Textile Inspired Day. I arrived on 27 October as early as possible in Jakarta traffic to be at as many shows and press conferences as possible.
The first show that caught my attention was 'My Romance' by Musa Widyatmodjo.
The collection consisted of soft shaded outfits. The patchwork batik motif textiles were covered with lace and pearl applications. The collection was too sweet for my taste, but it is a nice way of using batik (motifs, I don't know if it is actual batik or printed textiles). And I think more designers could have done that during the JFW.

'My Romance' by Musa Widyatmodjo

The next one which used traditional wear as a inspiration was LeVico. I already shared something about this on Instagram and I have to say the show before this one used even worse fabrics, but still.
Dear designers, in a country so full of skilled textile makers there is no excuse for using bad and ugly textiles. Especially if you show your collection on a event like this. You want the best right?
But anyhow, the looks LeVico showed were pretty stunning. And maybe thats why it bothered me even more. The collection inspired by Nusa Tenggara Timur was with some bold silhouettes and with nice decorations on the models. The little beads purses were a real wanna-have item and the ikat was used in a elegant way. Ikat is already a beautiful textile and the other fabrics could have been chosen much better.
Next time, a prime time show with all quality fabrics?

LeVico at JFW2017

My favourite show of the day was by Novita Yunus, the creator of Batik Chic. The collection under her name is for ready to wear clothing you can wear with your Batik Chic bag.
This collection didn't had Batik (Am I finally here...hehe) but the colours were a feast! The textiles reminded me of Indian sari's or Chinese jackets with bright yellow, green, purple and pink. The nice shimmering of the textile combined well with the detailed embroidery on the back of the jackets.
I think I would like to have all pieces in my wardrobe one day!

Novita Yunus at JFW2017

Last show of the day and one I was really happy to see was by Sejauh Mata Memandang. I also saw their show in the afternoon, but made only shaken photos. These photos aren't much better, sorry...
The audience was filled with people wearing Sejauh's 'Noodle Bowl' scarfs, so I think their brand is very popular now.
The show started with a video celebrating Batik and traveling around!
Sejauh consider themselves as textile makers, so for a wrapper like me, it is wonderful to see how they create these looks. With well placed knots and bows beautiful clothing is made. The backstages photos on Sejauh's Instagram are always amazing and it was good to see their details really pop out on stage.

Sejauh Mata Memandang at JFW2017

With my mind filled with new Batik Statements ideas and feeling very grateful, I ended my first Jakarta FashionWeek. Thank you JFW!

November 10, 2016

She doesn't make fashion, she creates goddesses

Already a couple of years I'm wishes to see a Anne Avantie fashion show live. This designer is know for her wonderful Sarong & Kebaya creations. The photos I saw before show beautiful, powerful women in beautiful traditional, yet it is new fashion. Like a fairytale on a catwalk.

In the afternoon of Tuesday 25 October at the Jakarta FashionWeek was a press conference and I was already happy to see Anne Avantie in real life. This new collection was inspired by Bali. So I understood that this meant I would miss out on her Batik-creations, but I wanted to ask her about Batik anyway.
A journalist before me asked something and I got the microphone after him. I said I knew Batik would not be used this time, but I did wanted to ask her what her opinion was about Batik nowadays and how she saw her part in this.
She didn't answer in English, but I understood directly that she is very passionate about this. I later got a rough translation and mixed it with my own understanding of her answer: "When we are talking about Batik, we are talking about Tulis, the technique. Not print, nor cap. I always will be inspired by Indonesian culture, because it is very important for me."
After the answer the press conference ended and I was very lucky I could ask her this (I made a recording, I will try to get a more accurate longer translation)
Batik Tulis would not be on the catwalk that evening, but the promise of ikat and prada made me glad already!

The fashion show started with the sound of a rooster calling morning dawn. Balinese dancers entered the stage both blessing it and show the first fashion pieces. You know immediately this is going to be a party!
The morning parade was a colourful mixes of lace and woven textiles in a wide range of colours. Every piece looks like it is the traditional wear for a 1000 years, because it fits so perfectly to every model. The models walk on stage which such graze making it possible for everyone to see the outfits well. At the end they strike a pose which make men fall on their knees and girls too.

After the morning it was time for the afternoon with white lace and gold on black fabrics. The soundtrack was all loud Balinese music which made it cheerful and elegant at once. The details in every piece is a real treat. I think every model has a Melati behind her ear and gorgeous jewellery like earwings, hair-ornaments and the Balinese wooden earrings in gold. Even all shoes were well chosen. And my favourite piece of this part of day was actually a pair of pants. But how cool is a prada patterned skinny jeans?!

The day ended and evening setting in on stage with a loud beating drum. Colours came back on stage in a hard pink and a rich blue. Capes covering lace bodysuits, big scarfs and short kebaya tops on skinny prada pants dominated this last part of her show. I knew then, what is also the title of this post: Anne Avantie doesn't make fashion, she creates goddesses!

Thank you Anne Avantie! And thank you Jakarta FashionWeek 2017!

There is one more JFW 2017 post coming up... thanks for reading!