Indonesia’s Batik Pride: 10 Years after UNESCO’s Inscription

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, the word Batik was something you would relate to a souvenir traditionally from Java or your parents’ formal wear or your teachers boring long-sleeve shirts. Batik was mainly perceived as the brown-ish patterned menswear or the lower half of our mother’s kebaya, female national attire, commonly worn during ceremonies. The younger Indonesians would not typically wear Batik out of their own initiative. 

That all changed on October 2, 2019. The UN branch of Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. That same day, then President Soesilo Bambang Yoedoyono or commonly known as SBY, declared it Batik Day. From that point on, Batik’s popularity shot through the roof and along with that, people re-learn Batik.

We now know that Batik itself originally refers to the technique of dyeing a cloth with a wax material commonly colored with natural elements such as plants. Many are hand-painted and some are hand-stamped by Batik artists. This technique, originating from Java, has been adopted nationwide through all the many different islands. In addition to the more traditional Parang, Megamendung, and Kawung motifs, we can now also boast Batik Papua and Batik Siger Lampung among many others. 

Batik industry has flourished immensely. Small businesses are sprouting due to the profitability of this beautiful clothing. Economically, Batik has been instrumental to the livelihood of many artisans who happen to be mostly women. In parallel, Batik designs and patterns have been adopted into the mainstream market, making them more modern, colorful, youthful, even high-fashion. Batik is now a source of pride. Millenials and generation Z has given batik a rebirth with a twist into the modern era. No longer is it your mom and dad’s traditional garb, Batik is now Fashion!