17 September – Talk ‘Demystifying Batik Belanda’ at ACM, Singapore

Batik Kita Lecture Series

Demystifying Batik Belanda
Developments in Batik history in the 19th century, imitations, and other influences from abroad
Talk by Sabine Bolk

Saturday, 17 September 2022, 3pm – 4:30 pm
Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum

In the 19th century many things happened within batik. The demand for batik grew rapidly after the end of the Dutch East India Company, which brought a stop to the import of Indian textiles. Batik turned out to be a useful technique to imitate patterns of the Indian cloths that were worn throughout the archipelago. The interest in batik also grew outside of the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). In Europe, batik was bought by collectors to be shown in museums and at colonial exhibitions. Cotton-printing factories started producing copies – imitation batiks – to be shipped back to Indonesia, where they came be be called “batik Belanda”. In response to these imitations, the batik cap (stamped batik) market blossomed on Java. The batik cap could easily compete with these Dutch imitations, leaving the European cotton-printers baffled as to why their cheap, mass-produced imitations (the earliest fast fashion, you might call them) would not sell.

It was not only the batik cap industry that flourished at this time. Batik tulis (hand-drawn) was made in the finest quality at the end of the 19th century. The European cotton companies shipped printed textiles and also fine woven blank cotton cloths. These machine woven cottons, combined with the Javanese canting, made it possible for the batik makers to create much more detailed batiks at the end of the 19th century.

After this short inspiring global history, Bolk will dive further into what the European influence on Javanese batik actually was, how it has been misinterpreted by European scholars in the past, and how we can right some colonial wrongs.