Every year, Chatham University chooses a Global Focus, and the 2017-2018 school year is the Year of Indonesia. In order to highlight Indonesian culture and society, the JKM Library has partnered with Dr. Greg Galford on displays that celebrate Indonesian culture and help educate our Chatham community.
The first is a display of beautiful Javanese batiks purchased in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Dr. Galford. Each of the batiks on display are incredibly beautiful, but one in particular features golden wax detailing that is truly stunning. The batik has been the source of some controversy over the years concerning the appropriation of Indonesian culture by many of its neighbors. A 2009 New York Times article detailed the struggle for cultural ownership of the batik between Indonesia and Malaysia. This was just one of many conflicts between the two nations. In September of that year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, made the decision to add the batik to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, meaning that its cultural meaning and significance is now protected and attributed to Indonesia (Gelling, 2009).
According to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the batik is deeply rooted in Indonesian culture and plays a big part in the lives of Indonesians. Different intricate patterns are worn for everyday activities, special events, marriages, pregnancy, and other life events. Batiks feature at the birth of a child and the death of an elder. They are even incorporated into entertainment, such as puppet shows. The incredible designs drawn by craftsmen are indicative of the wide range of cultural influences Indonesia has been exposed to over the centuries. You will see elements of “Arabic calligraphy, European bouquets and Chinese phoenixes to Japanese cherry blossoms and Indian or Persian peacocks.” (Indonesian Batik, 2017)
The process includes drawing beautiful designs on fabrics in hot wax which then helps to control which part of the fabric accepts the dyes and colors. This process is repeated on the same piece of fabric until the desired design is achieved (Indonesian Batik, 2017). The results are breath-taking. You can see video examples and up-close images of this process on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage website.
In another article by the New York Times that discussed the attempts to revive the batik tradition in the 1990s, batik historian T.T. Soerjanto explains how the tradition dates back 2,000 years and was first mentioned in the 15th century in the court records of Pakubuwono V, the King of Solo (Rabin, 1990). Take a look at the detailed fabric scans below of some of the batiks we have on display. Come in person to see our gilded batik in all its glory.
You can find our batik display on the first floor of the library hanging on the wall partition near the elevator. Feel free to get up close and even touch the fabric, but please proceed with care.
The second display is a collection of 18 books on Indonesia, provided by Dr. Galford. These books, which are both fiction and non-fiction, range in topic from history to civil engineering and infrastructure. While you are more than welcome to enjoy these books in the library, please do not remove them from the building. Below is a full list of titles in case you are interested in finding a copy for yourself!
- Under Construction: The Politics of Urban Space and Housing During the Decolonization of Indonesia by Freek Colombijn
- Island of Bali by Miguel Covarrubias
- Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
- The Traditional Architecture of Indonesia by Barry Dawson and John Gillow
- Balinese Dance, Drama & Music: A Guide to the Performing Arts of Bali by Wayan Dibia and Rucina Ballinger with illustration by Barbara Anello
- The Indonesia Reader: History, Culture by Tineke Hellwig and Eric Tagliacozzo
- The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch
- Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space and Political Cultures in Indonesia by Abidin Kusno
- The Appearance of Memory: Mnemonic Practices of Architecture and Urban Form in Indonesia by Abidin Kusno
- The Past in the Present: Architecture in Indonesia by Peter Nas
- Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani
- Creative Batik by Rosi Robinson
- A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia’s Search for Stability by Adam Schwartz
- Indonesia: Peoples and Histories by Jean Gelman Taylor
- Indonesia: A Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit by Justine Vaisutis
- Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace
- The Living House: An Anthropology of Architecture in South-East Asia by Roxana Waterson
- Krakatoa: The day the world exploded by Simon Winchester
We hope you enjoy Chatham’s Year of Indonesia! Take a moment to view our displays the next time you find yourself on the first floor of the JKM Library.
Indonesian Batik. (2017). Retrieved from https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/indonesian-batik-00170
Gelling, P. (2009, September 14). Score One for Indonesia in the War Over Batik. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/world/asia/15iht-batik.html?mcubz=0
Rabin, R.C. (1990, February 18). The Intricate Patterning of Batik. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/18/travel/the-intricate-patterning-of-batik.html?pagewanted=all&mcubz=0