An exhibition of batik, the traditional textile art of Indonesia, was presented at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center (April 2-21). “Wearable Art: Indonesian Batik Cloth Exhibition” was co-organized by the Korea Foundation and Preserve Indonesia, a private organization that seeks to promote Indonesian culture. This first-ever event of its kind was supported by the Embassy of Indonesia in Seoul and curated by Bin House, a representative batik producer in Indonesia.
The unique island culture of Indonesia is a product of its more than 17,000 or so islands. As for batik, the traditional craft passed down over hundreds of years, it is applied to traditional clothing, decorative works, and marriage items. Moreover, it occupies a fundamental position that is integral to the everyday life of Indonesians. It is also no exaggeration to say that batik has played a pivotal role in connecting the residents scattered about on the numerous islands of Indonesia, which is known for its exceptional handicrafts. Batik incorporates all aspects of Indonesia’s unique culture, including customs, rituals, and artistry. It is also a work of painstaking technique and artistic creativity that can require five to seven months for its completion. Of note, no two batik works are identical to each other because each piece is hand drawn and dyed by a master artisan. Batik is used for clothing and interior design items, such as the sarong, Indonesia’s traditional attire, family treasures, marriage items, decorative works, ritual garments, and interior item as well.
The basic batik techniques can be found in various Southeast Asian countries. However, batik has become a symbol of Indonesia due to the country’s efforts to promote this traditional craft, develop innovative designs and techniques, and render assistance for its advancement at the national level. The significance of Indonesia’s batik has been globally acknowledged with its designation as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, in October 2009.
Bin House is Indonesia’s representative producer involved with the promotion and development of batik. Established in 1986 by Josephine Komara, who is known as Obin, it strictly maintains the traditional ways of batik-making, from weaving to dyeing. Bin House is known as the foremost creator of batik works, based on its adherence to traditional methods as well as the efforts to adopt creative innovations. Over the years, it has staged a number of successful batik exhibitions in Indonesia and abroad.
The exhibition’s 120 works reveal Josephine Komara’s passionate dedication to the making of batik over the past 25 years. Characterized by a variety of colors and tones, along with 3,000 geometric patterns and plant and animal motifs, such as flowers with graceful stems, batik is produced through an elaborate process of drawing patterns and a series of dye-resist steps. A section of the gallery displayed the batik-making process with the related implements and examples of each step, which provided an idea of the considerable time and effort required for each work. “Wearable Art: Indonesian Batik Cloth Exhibition” was all the more meaningful as the first exhibition of its kind in Korea. It thus offered a rare opportunity for viewers to appreciate the quintessence of traditional Indonesian art, which is little known in Korea, and to catch a glimpse of the culture and lifestyle of Indonesia. As an important country of Southeast Asia and key supplier of natural resources to Korea, additional cultural exchange between Indonesia and Korea will contribute much to a further enhancement of our cooperative relations.