by Yovita Siswati on 25/11/10 at 9:19 am
Last year, UNESCO recognized batik as world Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity from Indonesia. This traditional piece of cloth painted with colorful pattern is full of life philosophy. Almost every region in Java and Sumatera Island has different type of batik. Cirebon, a city in the northern coast of Java also has its own specialty.
What is Batik?
Batik derived from Javanese words “amba nitik”, which eventually was shortened and became simply “batik”. The words describe the activity of painting on cloth point by point (in Javanese nitik means drawing a point) by a mean called “canting” and using special paint called “malam”, a traditional wax. Cloth painting in this fashion originated in the 9th century in Central Java. For centuries, only members of royal families can wear this beautifully painted cloth. However, it then became public fashion and spread all over Java and Sumatra Island.
Photograph showing a woman paint a batik cloth
Image credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/41597826@N04/5139040298/
Batik patterns are divided into two big groups, the royal and coastal motifs. The royal motifs are dominated with brown, dark brown, black, brownish red, yellowish brown or white color and the painting must adhere to some approved philosophical pattern that had not changed for centuries. This kind of batik usually wore on formal occasion or by royal families. The second group, the coastal motifs are more colorful with playful natural pictures.
Where is Cirebon?
Located in the northern coast of Java Island, Cirebon lies in the border of West and Central Java province about 297 kilometers from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The city is rich in culture and tradition. For detail information of the city and what to see there, you can check this article: Cirebon, Historical City in West Java
Local batik production in Cirebon is centralized in Trusmi, a village 5kms from the city centre. Around 1000 batik artist work in or around the village. Trusmi Batik is mostly coastal styled, although some royal motifs are also available as there are 4 kingdoms in Cirebon that still exist to date. One of the most famous royal motifs is the “Singa Wadas” that describe a worshipped royal lion (singa means lion in local language). For more information about one of the most powerful kingdoms in Cirebon, please check this article : Kasepuhan Palace, The Legacy of Cirebon’s Oldest Sultanate.
Sample of batik with royal motifs. Image from author.
Like any other coastal batik, the motif of Trusmi batik is heavily influenced by sari, India’s traditional cloth brought by trader and also by some pattern introduced by the Dutch during the colonial era and the Chinese. Chinese influence are shown by the appearance of pictures of dragons, and some creature from Chinese mythology such as phoenix and qilin, a quardian lion.
Coastal styled Trusmi Batik. Image from author.
Trusmi batik often displays picture of farmers, birds, flowers or other animals and plants drawn in rich vibrant color of yellow, gold, red, blue and even green. Most of the motifs represent symbol taken from Cirebon’s traditional myth and also themes from everyday’s life. The pattern are mostly asymmetrical, in contrast with usual motifs of royal batik from Central Java.
Pattern of Trusmi Batik depicting farmer working in paddy field. Image from author.
Trusmi batik with floral pattern. Image from author.
Another floral pattern. Image from author.
The most recognized pattern from Trusmi that cannot be found in any other region in Indonesia is the “Mega Mendung” (literally: stormy cloud) that looks like bunch of cloud in the sky. The color used for this pattern is usually four to eight shades of blue. Other colors for this type of motif are available though less common.