2 June 2020 – Mini-‘Brown Bag’ Research Session

BROWN BAG SESSION | 2 June | 15:00 – 17:00 | Zoom

(Junior) Fellows, Research Associates, and University Interns: Mini-‘Brown Bag’ Research Session.  If you would like to join us, please email for the Zoom link. The Zoom link will be sent the morning of Tuesday, June 2.

In an effort to nurture research on the collection of the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NMVW), which consists of nearly 450,000 objects and 750,000 photographic images, theResearch Center for Material Culture (RCMC), the research institute of the Tropenmuseum, the Museum Volkenkunde, the Afrika Museum, and the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam, welcomes fellows, junior fellows, research associates and university student interns. 

In response to the request from one of our year-long PhD interns, Johanna Strunge, that we learn more about each other’s inquiries and offer a means of doing research in a time in which social distancing and travel restrictions ask that we think our work differently, this mini-conference offers just one way for us to connect across spaces. We especially thank those joining us from around the world in the hours “entre chien et loup” [between dusk and dawn].

Researchers will briefly (4-5 minutes) present their work. Head of the RCMC Wayne Modest and Chief Curator Henrietta Lidchi will start-off our discussions. 


15:00—15:10 Opening and Welcome: Wayne Modest, Head, Research Center for Material Culture

15:10—15:20 First Deliberations:  Henrietta Lidchi, Chief Curator

15:20—15:40 Materialities I 

  1. Roberto Costa | The Making of Asmat Vernacular Crucifix-type Carvings through History
  2. Ella Broek | The Affective Potential of the Koto: On the dynamic interaction between clothing and the body
  3. Tania Christina Monteiro | Meeting Mami Wata
  4. Mary Caton Lingold | Musical Life (1600-1800): Experiences of survivors of the Middle Passage living on Caribbean plantations 

10-minute Q&A

15:50—16:10 Engaging Otherwise with Ethnographic Museums 

  1. Ailish Toal | Impossibilities of Translating Gender: Recent scholarship on Hijra/Kinnar and Fa’afāfine
  2. Jessica Hemmings | Reading Material
  3. Fresco Sam-Sin: Things That Talk
  4. Sara Guagnini | Memory, affects, emotion, desires, imagination and creativity in the Anthropocene

10-minute Q&A

16:20—16:30 Break

16:30—16:50 Materialities II: Between and Among Mbembe’s ‘Post-Colony’ 

  1. Amélie Couvrat Desvergnes | Study on the Materiality of the Indian Northwestern Drawings and Paintings (Pahari and Punjab) from Museum Volkenkunde
  2. Karwin Cheung: Literati painting with works from the Ming, Qing, and Republican periods
  3. Sabine Bolk | Re-telling the History of the (Indo-)European Influence on Batik
  4. Carlee Forbes | Creative Mediations: Art, innovation, and collecting in colonial-Era Congo, 1880-1940 

10-minute Q&A

17:00—17:15 Urbanisms and the Ethnographic Museum

  1. Johanna Strunge | Coffee, tobacco and spices on display – Colonial goods shops in museums
  2. Paoletta Holst & Paolo Patelli | Blending Pure Water, Urbanism, Pseudo-science, (Amateur) Ethnography, Entrepreneurialism — in/from the works of H. F. Tillema

10-minute Q&A

17:25—17:30 Final Words, Wayne Modest


Batik bedcover, donated by a niece of Von Franquemont, WM – 26938

Sabine Bolk | Re-telling the History of the (Indo-)European Influence on Batik

Working together with Batik-makers, researchers, museum professionals, collectors and connoisseurs of Batik, our research project retells the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik between 1850 and 1890 on the North-coast of Java, Indonesia.

Answers are given in words and images to the following question: How was Batik influenced by Europe?

Can this influence truly be traced back to one or two individuals, Indo- European Batik entrepreneurs Carolina Josephina von Franquemont and Catharina Carolina van Oosterom-Philips? And what other factors played a role in this development? How is this evident in Batik designs from before 1890, from before Batiks were signed, and what can actually be considered as an (Indo-) European influence?

A major part of the project consists of finding ways of making what is found available for Indonesian Batikmakers and other interested parties. Last October, I launched the project on Java with a series of talks, discussions and workshops hosted by museums and local organisations. At the moment, I am mostly working on articles and researching the provenance of Batiks from the museum collections in combination with earlier done archival research on other locations.


Sabine Bolk (1984) is a Dutch artist who has been exploring Batik, the Indonesian resist-dye technique for textile, for the last 11 years. The inspiration doesn’t only come from the technique, but also from the language of the patterns and the philosophy of Batik. On her blog ’The journey to Batik’ she writes about her discoveries, journeys and research. Sabine is currently a Research Associate at the Research Center for Material Culture in Leiden (NL) to research the batik collections in Dutch museums & archives. She writes for different platforms, organises events, gives talks, presentations and workshops. She not only gets inspiration from Batik, she also works on promoting, preserving and protecting Batik.

Journey to Batik News

De Batik Stand Online

De Batik Stand gaat online!

Het is bijna eind mei en dat betekent dat we ons nu aan het voorbereiden zouden zijn om weer 11 dagen alles over batik te delen op de 62e Tong Tong Fair (TTF) in Den Haag. Omdat dit helaas anders is gelopen, en de TTF dit jaar niet plaatsvindt, hebben we iets anders bedacht! 

Samen met de TTF hebben we achter de schermen gewerkt aan een mooi batik programma voor het TTF publiek. Dit gaan we hopelijk allemaal bij de komende editie in 2021 uitvoeren.

Omdat we heel veel rondom batik hebben om met jullie te delen, en eigenlijk niet willen wachten, organiseren we vanaf 28 mei de Batik Stand Online! We nemen jullie o.a. mee in de geschiedenis van batik op de TTF in onze stories,  gaan in gesprek met de TTF en hebben Dido Michielsen gesproken over de rol van batik in haar nieuwste boek ‘Lichter dan ik’.

Daarnaast hebben we de succesvolle ‘batik spreekuren’ in een digitaal jasje gestoken en zullen we hier ook een live sessie voor organiseren op Instagram.  

Wat zou jij te weten willen komen over batik? Stuur ons jouw batik-vragen, dan zullen we deze tijdens onze Batik Stand Online zoveel mogelijk beantwoorden!

Volg onze Batik Stand Online via Instagram & Facebook via @tongtongfair, @helloguave & @sabinebolk

Afbeelding links: Rogier Boon tekende deze door batik geïnspireerde cover van Tong-Tong (nu: Moesson). Op vind je het complete archief van Tong-Tong en Moesson, hét Indisch maandblad. Rechts: Batik Stand 2019 met Sabine Bolk, Myrthe Groot en Romée Mulder

Journey to Batik Projects

Staal 100 – RCMC Research Associate

What started as a simple looking into things, ended up in an intens research of already 3 years. When I make the mistake to type in some search words in online archives at morning coffee, it can end up in a full day deep dive. This short video shows a little insight into my research process. I called this one ‘Staal 100’. About a year and a half ago I came across a note in a travel-journey describing a Batik that had been bought, actually an imitation based on the style of Von Franquemont, the Batik entrepreneur I am researching. The author send a piece of it to be put into a sample book, naming it ‘Staal 100’, sample 100. Ever since reading this note, when I come across any samples, in books, letters or anywhere else, I always check the number 100, hoping it is this one. Many similar other little hints, clues and writings go through my mind, trying to connect them to physical evidence. Evidence that can help me to re-tell the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik between 1840-1890.

The project I have been working on these last 3 years, ‘Re-telling the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik‘, is about sharing stories and making this history available for a wider audience and especially the Batikmakers of today.

My research position as a Research Associate at the Research Center of Material Culture in Leiden has been extended till end 2020. With the current situation, I have now not the possibility to access any archives or go to my researchspot at the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden. Luckily I already gather a lot of info, photos and sources these last few years, so I will be working on processing that and working on how to share the re-telling online. I’ll keep you posted here and through my blog The journey to Batik.

  • posted 18 May 2020 on my Research Center of Material Culture Research Associate position being extended till 2020
  • In December 2020 my Research Position has been extended until June 2021
Journey to Batik News

IG Live with aNERDgallery

On Wednesday 29 April 2020 Tony of aNERDgallery, Singapore, invited me for an Instagram Live interview. It was so great to talk from afar about Batik, Colonial history, my sometimes weird Art and more. You can re-watch it on IG tv on the instagram page of aNERDgallery, enjoy!

aNERDspective Ep. 2: The Chicken Ate My Rice

aNERDspective is a light-hearted talk with artists, artisans and entrepreneurs to learn about their practices and how they profess their love to Indonesian textile arts Batik and Tenun.

In this second episode, we had a great time with visual artist and batik blogger Sabine Bolk discussing about her latest project digging up artefacts about Indo-European batik makers, what is exactly being taught in Dutch schools about colonising other countries, including Indonesia, and the chicken that ate the rice. 
Watch it, listen to it and let us know what surprised you about Batik from Sabine!

Journey to Batik News Projects

Book ‘Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken’

End of last year Maureen Tan contacted me if I was able to help her with an idea for her upcoming, and now published, Indonesian Cookbook. The cookbook ‘Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken‘ is part of a series by Carrera Culinair and although the format is similar for every book each author makes the book trully their own. Maureen Tan explained she was making the book with recipes written down by her mother and complimented with recipes by others. Her wish was to include Batiks in the book.
When I heard it was a book on almost all Indonesian islands, I thought it would be nice if it would not be just Batiks featured in the book as decoration, but that the textiles used for the book would actually match with the location of the recipes.
With an list of possible places of recipes that would make the book, I started looking for the best matches. Because I do not own textiles of all Indonesian islands, I asked my dear friends Rachma Sri Mulyani Saloh and Ine WawoRuntu if they had textiles I could borrow.
Ibu Rachma is very active as a dancer in the dancegroup Wahana Budaya Nusantara, gives wonderful workshops to mostly Indonesian students in both dance and cooking. She is from Kalimantan and lives already many years in the Netherlands. Her knowlegde on places in Indonesia and their traditional wear is really remarkable. She had so many nice pieces and a small selection made it into the book.
Ibu Ine is very active in promoting Indonesian culture in the Netherlands and does great work with her Stichting Hibiscus in Indonesia. I know her for many years and we try to help eachother when possible. I was so happy she could lend me some textiles, I or Ibu Rachma did not have.

Photographer Sven Benjamins checking the photos he took.
The endresult is shown in the next photo, page 207 in the book

Thank you Maureen for including me in your wonderful project :))) It was also a great learning experience exploring different textiles from all over Indonesia. You can now buy ‘Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken’ by Maureen Tan, check out your local bookstore on or offline.

For more behind the scene and info on the Indonesian textiles used in the book, go to my blog The journey to Batik

Book open on page 349 – 351, Chapter ‘Bali’,
showing a Batik Tulis with the Goddess of Water and a Karbouw,
made by an artist on Bali in the 70’s,
on top of a Batik by the same artist with Dewi Sri, the Goddes of Rice.
Both Batiks were gifted to me by a lady who lived on Bali and wore these to the beach
Installations Journey to Batik Projects

Colonial Mirror

Batik Statement series ‘Colonial Mirror’
Dia-slides made by Koen de Wit
Concept and looks by Sabine Bolk

I started making Batik Statement already 8 years ago. The first one I made was a Batik-fashion-tribute-to-fashion-bloggers in 2012. Being a blogger, but not at all a fashion blogger, I thought it would be fun to explore this world of pretending-to-be-fashion-while-being-at-home and create looks with Batik. I got a great response to it and kept making and sharing Batik Statements. I also got Batik Statements from others and even did four Batik Statement events. However I never really used it in an Art-type of way.

When Pieter Vastbinder asked me and Koen de Wit for his yearly Spiegelhol event at the BelcrumWatertoren during the Cultuurnacht, I had the idea of exploring the ‘colonial mirror’, or better my view in that mirror.
Looking for ways of addressing colonial history and how we reflect on this past, I got inspired by ‘Bigi Spikri‘ and the selfie-culture of Indonesia. ‘Bigi Spikri‘ is a Surinamese word which translates into ‘Big mirror’. During big festive parades dressed up people would walk the streets of Paramaribo seeing themselves reflected in the shopwindow. These shopwindows functioned as big mirrors to admire yourself in. The ‘Bigi Spikri’ parade is closely related to ‘Keti Koti’. ‘Keti Koti’ celebrated on 1 of July that marks the date when slavery was abolished in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles in 1863. The parade is a returning part of this remembrance and it is not only a way of admire beauty in diversity, but also to invite others to reflect on this past.
In the BelcrumWatertoren I created a shopwindow in which I displayed books, objects and textiles that I use to learn from and reflect on our colonial past.
Next to that I showed a slide-show of photos I made in the Netherlands and Indonesia showing how we deal with this past. During my last visit to Indonesia in October, I was much more focussed on our shared history and visited more old sites. The cellphone-culture which I already encountered from 2009, is now transformed into a full on selfie-culture. Next to being asked a lot to pose for photos, people pose everywhere. Places for me filled with heavy feelings are now popular for the youth as pretty backdrops for their Insta-shots. Old Dutch places even got fixed up, and re-used. Before these colonial memories were literally falling apart. So an interesting development which allows us to reflect better on this past even if it is through a filter with someone making a peace sign.

To bring this inspiration together and make my ‘colonial mirror’ even more visible, I made a Batik Statement series. With the great help of Koen de Wit, we made analog dia-slides on 30 December 2019. It was very cold, but with a beautiful blue sky and we found a great spot with water in the background.
I made 5 different looks using clothing and textiles from my own collection. I am especially proud of the iPhone-headpiece we created based on the ear-irons worn in Dutch Traditional wear. It was good for many laughs and the result works so well.
Also very happy with how my koto-skirt turned out using a Vlisco Java Print and a lot of pins. The Java Print has a motif of a big standing mirror. It was designed in 2016 for the Vlisco ‘Woven Wisdom’ collection. For me immediately it was linked with the reflection we should make with our past, and I sheepishly thought Vlisco refer to that with this collection…However I instantly thought of this fabric for this photoshoot and was happy it was still available.

Without going in much further detail, I just want to share the series here with you. During the Cultuurnacht 2020 it was projected in a loop. These are digital scans of the dia-slides. We had multiple of each look and I picked my favourites to share here with you, enjoy!

Films Projects

Hidden between the leaves

Animation ‘Hidden between the leaves’
Duration: 1 minute
Made by Sabine Bolk
Music by Koen de Wit

During these strange times, I try to be positive and creating new things helps with that. My dear friend Emmy Dijkstra send me a short animation she made. Inspired by this, I made this one minute animation myself.

Looking for ways to explain motifs used in Batik this seemed a nice format. ‘Hidden between the leaves’ is based on motifs found in Batik on the North-coast of Java. In the animation I use Batiks made by Nurul Maslahah, a young Batikmaker from Batang, and one by KUB Srikandi, run by Ibu Ramini in desa Jeruk near Lasem.

The title comes from my Batikmentor Pak William Kwan. He pointed out this hidden world on Batiks that I hadn’t noticed before that moment, so thank you!

For the music, you hear Koen de Wit on clarinet accompanied by a shruti box, thanks!