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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Javanese Batik as a Commodity

In 18th century, people began making Javanese batik as a market commodity. The production process is done by females in rural villages with the infestation from Chinese businessmen/women in Java. In the mid 19th century, the women of Indo-European and Indo-Arabian descendants also joined the business, and from that time batik industries began to appear and grow in major cities. Women from rural areas came to the cities to be batik labors and it led to job division between men and women in batik industries; men held the job in preparing and dying the cloth, while women worked on the drawing the pattern.
In the progress of batik industry, the process of hand-drawing in batik production is slowly but surely shifted by printing technique, by which the industry can run fast in producing mass amount. Further on, most batik companies use printing technique and only a few still using hand-drawing system. Finally, because printing is a masculine job, the need of women labors becomes less and less.

 In Javanese tradition, batik has an important cultural value, for batik presents in many stages of a Javanese life since the birth to the death. Batik (cloth) presents in mitoni ceremony (a kind of baby shower party when the pregnancy entering the 7th month), presents in the newborn ceremony, in the wedding (called sidomukti batik, used by the couples to represent blessing), when a person dies the body should be covered with batik cloth and lied on a bed covered with 7 layers of batik cloth along with other stuffs.
During the era of Java Royal kingdoms and Dutch colonialism, batik also presented elitism symbol, describing the social rank of a person. Even these days, this symbolizing function of batik is still applied in governmental bureaucrats, the royal family members (in Cirebon, Surakarta, and Jogjakarta palace), and also in some groups of society. This symbolism was related with type of pattern and batik. As an example, batik with ceplok pattern is only appropriate for leaders, for the pattern resembles hope of the people that the one who wears it will be a good leader. Another example, hand-drawn batik is considered more beautiful and valuable than printed one.
Watching the dynamics progress, the principle and interest of industrious market that concentrate on mass and quick productivity; can batik—especially traditional hand-drawn batik—survive amid this condition? It is possible, that someday batik is considered as insignificant way of cloth decorating. Hand-drawn batik cloth might grow scarce and more expensive for it takes longer time to produce the various colors and patterns in order to resemble the values. Won’t this situation make hand-drawn batik cloth as a limited “collectors’ edition” item? Basically, for Javanese society batik cloth is not merely an artistic cloth, more than that batik has the importance as a culture.

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