On What We Call Batik?

Can we call Batik just by seeing the ornamentation in traditional textiles? The answer is interestingly No, since batik is also realized to be the process of the mbatik.

Batik has been very famous as an important textile product made by Javanese, Indonesia. There has been a very long historical route of batik as a traditional and cultural heritage in Indonesia (Hasanudin, 2001), even earlier than the era of the first king of Majapahit, Raden Wijaya (1294-1309 A.D.). Despite the popular and common recognition, batik is actually not a monopoly of Javanese culture. Batik has been also recognized as part of traditional textiles Sumatera Island, e.g.: Jambi (Kerlogue, 1997).

In Javanese tradition, from the patterns of decoration and geographical aspects where they are developed, batik textiles can be roughly categorized as Batik Vorstenlanden and Batik Pesisir. Batik Vorstenlanden is the art of textiles that is existed in places like keraton, Javanese traditional government or monarchy, i.e.: Solo and Yogya, while Batik Pesisir is those developed in coastal area, e.g.: Cirebon, Indramayu, Pekalongan,Tuban, Madura (Sondari & Yusmawati, 2000). As developed, improved, innovated, and crafted in coastal area, the latter are rich with the influence from many culture abroad, e.g.: Chinese, Islamic tradition.

Can we call Batik just by seeing the ornamentation in traditional textiles? The answer is interestingly No, since batik is also realized to be the process of the mbatik. Thus, the batik ornaments cannot be separated from the process of the making. Relating to the previous facts, there exist some differences on crafting Batik respect to the local places and traditions, be it the Batik Vorstenlanden and also different places where Batik Pesisir are produced. Thus, the differences are not only related to the patterns of the ornamentation but also the places where the crafts are designed and produced. Different places and traditions would bring different materials used to colorings, designs, and techniques used. Furthermore, traditional appreciation and usage of batik is not the same to all people for it is somehow directly related to the cosmos of the social system. Different batik crafts are used and wore by different social classes and even occasions; some batik is produced for the statesmen and the other for the ordinary civilians, some are wore for daily events while other are used for particular important occasions. Those are inherent in the cultural heritage where batik is crafted and used and become the source of the complexity of batik.

This fact become the fundamental arguments and simultaneously understanding, that observing batik cannot be reduced to the patterns of decoration, but should be delivered by looking at the textile products as a whole processes from the phases of the production to the aesthetic appreciation. This made batik very interesting and our acquisitions of computation could promise some amusing and unlimited sense of the batik itself as an Indonesian traditional heritage (Doellah, 2002).

However, we could outline that generally speaking, the making processes employ some pseudo-algorithmic steps, namely:

  1. Klowongan, the process of the drawing of the basic elements of the general designs.
  2. Isen-isen, the process of filing the parts of the drawings finished from the previous step with some motifs. Some patterns regarding to this step, e.g.: cecek, sawut, cecek sawut, sisik melik.
  3. Harmonic Ornamentations, the placing of the background of the designs as a whole of the design. Some traditional patterns are employed, like pola ukel, galar, gringsing, or some other variants from the isen, e.g.: sekar sedhah, rembyang, sekar pacar.

Moreover, in its broadest sense, the process of the batik itself cannot be reduced into merely steps of the ornamentations. The materials incorporated in it also play an important role, including the textiles, the organic colorings, the wax, and so on.

Taken from: Situngkir, H. (2008). The computational generative patterns in Indonesian batik. (Bandung: Dept. Computational Sociology, Bandung Fe Institute).


Doellah, H. S. (2002). Batik: The impact of time and environment. (Danar Hadi).

Hasanudin. (2001). Batik pesisiran: Melacak pengaruh etos dagang santri pada ragam hias batik. (Kiblat).

Kerlogue, F. (1997). Scattered Flowers: Textiles from Jambi, Sumatera. Center for South-East Asian Studies. (University of Hull).

Sondari, K., & Yusmawati. (2000). Batik pesisir. (Cultural Media Development Project – Department of Education and Culture, Republic of Indonesia).

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