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Penang – Batik Of Culture

Could Tutankhamun, Nefertiti, Rameses and the people of ancient Egypt have worn batik? Could Cleopatra have strolled along the banks of the Nile with the breezes billowing her exotic batik robes?

It's an intriguing conjecture without a doubt, but hardly surprising when you consider that archeologists have discovered fragments of batik fabric in excavations of ancient Egypt. Exactly how far back batik goes in history is anyone's guess, but it is nonetheless regarded that batik painting is the oldest cloth dyeing technique in the world.

Dorothy may have been the first Hollywood starlet to don a batik sarong, but the craft and art of batik painting stretches back many years. It is in fact a craft that is at least 2,000 years old.

The word batik originates from the Javanese tik, which means to dot. Incidentally, 'batik' is used in both Indonesia and Malaysia, the two major producers in the world today, to describe the same method of printing although designs vary. According to the very informative Batik Guild, the earliest examples of batik were found in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia and India, where it slowly spread to the islands of the Malay Archipelago and west to the Middle East through the caravan route. Finely made items of silk batik depicting trees, animals, musicians and hunting scenes have been found in ancient China and Japan.

Malaysian batik, for example, does not usually feature animals or human shapes, preferring instead to focus on floral designs. Indonesian batik, on the other hand, incorporates the various elements connected with different religions, such as the mythical garuda and Tree of Life from Hinduism, and flowers and geometric designs from Islam. This is of course, a general observation. The reality is that there are really no hard and fast rules when it comes to batik design, and the limits are usually set by how far and wide the imagination can reach.

Much of the popularity of Batik can be tied to the fact that the batik technique offers immense possibilities for artistic freedom as patterns are applied by actual drawing rather than by weaving with thread. Another factor in its popularity is the fact that it is so durable. The colors in Batik are much more resistant to wear than those of painted or printed fabrics because the cloth is completely immersed in dye and the areas not protected by resist are allowed to absorb hues to the extent that the colors will not easily fade. The term “Batik” is an Indonesian-Malay word (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malay are the official languages of Indonesia and Malaysia and are linguistically similar).

Although there is no sure explanation as to where batik first was “invented”, many observers believe that it was brought to Asia by travelers from the Indian subcontinent. Despite the fact that batik may have originated elsewhere, most observers believe that batik has reached its highest artistic expression in Indonesia, particularly in Java.

The art of Batik was later spread to the rest of the Indonesian archipelago and to the Malay Peninsula where the popularity of the cloth led to the establishment of many other production centers. Batik has become a very central means of artistic expression for many of the areas of Asia and a deeply integrated facet of Asian culture.

Although most batik fabric is now decorated and tailored by machine, there still remains a considerable market for high-quality, hand-made batik.

Submitted by:

Jerry Hall

For more information about Penang Island or Malaysia, see http://www.PenangIsland.Info. Come and be amazed with the sights, great food and multicultural community.




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