Menyelisik Kembali Industri Batik Tanah Air

Investigating the Indonesian Batik Industry

Every October 2, Indonesian people commemorate National Batik Day. This commemoration began when UNESCO recognized batik as a world cultural heritage in October 2009. At that time, batik was designated as an intangible cultural heritage because the knowledge of batik in Indonesia had traditionally been passed down from generation to generation, starting from the techniques, motifs, to the coloring. This tradition remains sustainable today and has been transformed into an industry that supports many generations.

It is not known for certain when batik appeared in Indonesia. However, various sources say that batik has been around since the era of the Majapahit Kingdom (13th to 16th century AD) and continued to develop in subsequent times. Initially, batik was only used as clothing for kings, royal families and royal workers. Because royal workers often went in and out of the kingdom, batik began to become known to the public and its manufacture was imitated.

Initially, batik making activities were only carried out to fill free time by women. However, gradually this activity apparently became the embryo for the birth of the batik industry in the country. When talking about the batik industry, of course it cannot be separated from three cities, namely Pekalongan, Cirebon and Solo.

As reported on the Pekalongan City Government website , the nickname batik city attached to Pekalongan cannot be separated from how batik is attached to the lives of the residents there. Since hundreds of years ago until now, most of the batik production processes there have been carried out in homes. From this home industry it then becomes a source of livelihood over time.

In the midst of a rapidly changing era, Pekalongan batik continues to exist and is flexible in adopting new developments. Judging from the journey, according to data from the local Department of Industry and Trade, initially in 1802 a batik motif was discovered that resembled a small tree. This motif continued to develop until it gave birth to various other forms, such as Jlamprang, Liong, Semen, Lung-lungan, Seven types, Sawat, Bouketan, and Terang Bulan. With its flexibility and rapid development, Pekalongan batik has become one of the area's largest export commodities. Pekalongan batik has been exported to a number of countries, such as Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and many more.

Furthermore, another icon of Indonesian batik is the Trusmi Cirebon batik. Trusmi is the name of one of the villages in Cirebon which was the forerunner to the emergence of the batik industry in this coastal area. Referring to various sources, the Trusmi batik industry has existed since the 14th century. However, the development of this industry began to be felt since 1955, when the government began to take part and various new techniques in manufacturing and marketing began to be implemented.

The batik industry in Cirebon is mostly centered in Trusmi Batik Village which is located not far from the heart of this city. There, there is a 1.5 kilometer long street on either side of which there are rows of shops and exhibition halls for the best products of Trusmi batik craftsmen. There are various mainstay motifs that you will find, such as Mega Mendung, Wadasan, Paksi Naga Liman, Singa Barong, and so on.

In the Trusmi batik industrial area, there are more than 400 business units operating and absorbing more than 3,000 workers. Even though it is mostly a home industry, this business unit also absorbs workers from outside Trusmi Village, such as Gamel, Kaliwulu, Wotgali and Kalitengah. The results of the Trusmi batik industry are not only known in the Indonesian market, but have also reached foreign markets, such as Japan, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and the Philippines.

Apart from that, there is also a Solo batik industry which is growing rapidly in the Laweyan area. Previously, Laweyan was a market that sold cotton commodities for the weaving industry. After learning about batik techniques, the people there switched to producing batik. Until later in the 19th century Laweyan turned into a center for the stamped batik industry. This technique makes batik production easier and faster. Production quantities also become larger and can be sold at cheaper prices. Even though it seems to be developing as fast fashion, Solo batik has various motifs. There are at least more than 250 batik motifs developed and patented there. The characteristic of batik is that it has brighter colors and is not tied to palace motifs.

Regarding the palace motif, there is an area next to the Surakarta Palace called Kauman which is a center for batik making. There, the courtiers maintain the batik tradition by drawing palace motifs. Batik making initially became a side business for the wives of courtiers to fulfill palace needs or orders. Furthermore, this continued to develop and made Kauman also develop into a batik industry center next to Laweyan. This industrial growth was then supported by a large textile and batik trading facility, namely Klewer Market.

So, along the way, batik in Solo also gave birth to big brands which are now commonly found in various cities outside Solo. These brands include Batik Keris, which was founded in 1920; Batik Semar which was introduced in 1947; and Batik Danar Hadi which appeared in 1967.

Apart from batik in these three regions, other clothing brands have also developed their own batik motifs, one of which is the founder of the environmentally friendly clothing brand "As Far As the Eye Sees", Chitra Subyakto. Designing your own motifs, said Chitra, is expected to give enthusiasm to the younger generation to continue batik activities. This is because most batik practitioners in the country are still dominated by the older generation. The motif doesn't have to have a classic feel. Several things around you can be an inspiration for creating batik motifs.

That's the journey of the batik industry in Indonesia. Batik has indeed become integrated into the daily lives of Indonesian people and has become an identity recognized worldwide. So, on this National Batik Day, how proud are you of wearing batik?

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