Post A: The Complex Context of Batik Textiles

Cultural traditions are an important part of any local community. These traditions create a sense of belonging within this community as stories and historical meaning are often embedded in these traditions. The batik textile practice in Indonesia is strongly engrained in these local communities, dating back to the 1800’s. Each village has its own distinctive style of batik as the motifs used in the textiles have been passed down through generations, not dissimilar to methods of story telling used by the Aborigines through their dot painting or Guatemalans in their textile weaving.

To the untrained eye batik designs are just beautiful, colourful patterns on cloth but each designs carries it’s own significance and was once representative of social status. Many designs were reserved only for Yogyakarta royalty or the Kingdom family. Although today these designs are available for any tourist to purchase on the street it is important to understand the meaning these designs hold for the local community. One of these patterns is the Parang Rusak pattern meaning “Big Knife” which represents courage and was reserved only for the King. This design must be produced in very particular way, each line drawn in a single breath. Some people believe that this motif tells the story of creation, “others believe, this design was created by Sultan Agung of Mataram (1613-1645) after a meditation on the South coast of Java” (Rohima, 2012) and that it symbolises the power of the waves in the ocean.

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(Parang Rusak pattern Images from https://lianrohima.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/parang-rusak-one-of-batik-motifs/)

Another design that tells a beautiful story is the Sawat Pattern, which translates in Javanese to “Strike”. This motif tells the legend of the Garuda bird, a mythical creature with the body of a man and the head of and wings of an eagle who carries a Hindi God up into the heavens where the gods have the power to strike down evil. This motif demonstrates the hybrid of Hindi and Islamic Mataram religions that is present in Yogyakarta. A design such as this would have been forbidden in many of the islands of Java during the 17th century that were predominantly of Islamic faith. The ban on the depiction of humans and animals initiated a more abstract form of batik motifs, “stylised and modified ornaments as symbols, such as flowers and geometric patterns, known as ceplok. The ceplok patterns were the way in which batik makers attempted to get around the prohibition, creating simple elements which represented animals and people in a non-realistic form” (Florek, 2011).

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(Sawat pattern Images from http://batik-pattern.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/batik-pattern-semen-romo-sawat-gurdo.html)
Batik motifs represent the beliefs of the Indonesian people, this is why the patterns vary between villages as people’s context and values shape the designs.

 References:

Briliana N. Rohima, 2012, The Forbidden Designs in Batik Yogyakarta, lianrohima, viewed 1 May 2015 <https://lianrohima.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/the-forbidden-designs-in-batik-yogyakarta/&gt;

Chandra Endoputro, 2007, Intangable Heritage, UNESCO, viewed 2 May 2015, <http://www.unesco.org/archives/multimedia/?s=films_details&pg=33&id=3&gt;

Stan Florek, 2011, Batik: The Forbidden Designs of Java, Australian Museum, Australia, viewed 2 May 2015, < http://australianmuseum.net.au/batik-the-forbidden-designs-of-java>

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Post C: The Globalisation of Bali

Indonesia is one of the top tourist destinations for Australia with over 900 00 Australian’s travelling there in 2013 but it wasn’t always like this. I spoke to Kaye Quiney, founder of Ozzie Mozzie Nets, a homeware and bed linen company on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, who has been visiting Indonesia since the 1970’s. She has watched the country transform over the years as Western influence has made it’s mark.

Kaye first visited Bali in 1973 when the only others making this journey were surfers embarking on the ‘hippy trail’ through South-East Asia. Kuta was nothing but a village with accommodation costing no more that $1 a day and meals costing 50 cents. The luxuries that you would now find were non-existent; you bathed from a small basin and slept under sarongs. It was a magical place to be as it was so far removed from Western Culture. Kaye visited Bali twice more in the 70’s, bringing back batik sarongs which she would use as fabric to create drawstring pants, bolsters and other small things that she would sell at Spring St Gallery in Chatswood.kaye1
(Left: Kaye featured in Vogue in 1982 with the start of the brand Right: Kaye’s Kimonos made in Bali from contemporary Batik fabrics. Images from https://www.facebook.com/mozzienets/photos_stream)

Kaye didn’t visit Bali again until the 90’s and within the space of only a decade Western Influence had started to creep into the country with familiar shops popping up and resorts being built. “I was just weeping, Bali was unrecognisable” (Quiney, 2015). The untouched paradise that she once knew was starting to transform into the tourist destination that it now is today. This act of globalisation had many effects on the local paradigm, Western influence triggered a change not only on the visual aspect of the community but on the beliefs and attitudes of the Balinese people. Resulting in many of their art forms changing and adapting to this new worldview. Batik resist dying started to break away from the traditional motifs and new patterns started to appear. “The culture that emerges reflects interaction with various interlocutors” (Hitchcock, date unknown)

Dispite Kaye’s initial dismay at the rapid rate of change and homogonisation in Indonesia she continued visiting Bali as her business grew, bringing back boxes of beautiful fabrics to be sold as sarongs and used in her own creations. In the early 2000’s she started manufacturing her own clothes in Bali. She took over vintage patterns of clothing she was selling at Paddington markets in the 70’s and had them made in contemporary batik fabrics. Some of these fabrics created by a Balinese woman who, through this act of globalisation, had become partners with a French woman. Together they create wonderful contemporary batik fabrics with a mixture of influences from around the world.

References:

Michael Hitchcock, date unknown, Bali: A Paradise Globalised, IIAS, London, viewed 7 May 2015, <http://www.iias.nl/iiasn/19/theme/6.html&gt;

Angela Saurine, Lisa Cornish, 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Australians took a record number of overseas trips in the past year, News.Com, Australia, Viewed 7 May 2015 < http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/australian-bureau-of-statistics-data-shows-australians-took-a-record-number-of-overseas-trips-in-the-past-year/story-e6frfq80-1226690392522>

Interview with Kaye Quiney, May 2015

 

Post B: Nudie Jeans Reducing Cotton Waste

The textile industry is responsible for mass over-consumption of resources and waste. It takes approximately 11000 litres of water to produce enough cotton for a single pair of jeans. Its production also results in water contamination and pollution due to pesticides and fertilisers and creates soil erosion and degradation. Cotton production however, which accounts for almost half of all textile fibre production, “provides income for more than 250 people worldwide and employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries (WWF, 2015). The cotton industry is pivotal to our economy and cannot be stopped; instead we must find a way to reduce its ecological footprint.

Nudie Jeans is a Swedish denim company with a passion for sustainability. Their collection is comprised of 100% ethically sourced organic cotton denim. They allow complete transparency of the production of their clothing, letting consumers track every step of production from growth of the crop to transport, manufacturing and distribution.

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(Nudie’s Repair Store <http://www.nudiejeans.com/repair/&gt;)

What is most amazing about Nudie is how they combat waste of their products. They disregard the idea of ‘fast-fashion’, for them it is not about buying the new best thing every season, as jeans only get better with age. “Your jeans go where you go. They live your lifestyle. They get abrasions and scars. And they bleed. Just like you” (Nudie, 2015). Every pair of Nudie jeans comes with a lifetime warranty and when the inevitable happens and holes start to appear in your favourite pair of jeans, Nudie will patch and repair the damage for free as each of their shops is set up with a industrial sewing machine and specialised repair department however if location is a problem they send DIY repair kits in the mail. The Nudie repair shop concept was awarded ‘Sustainable Store of the Year’ by the Swedish Trade Federation.

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(Nudie’s Recycled Rug project <http://www.nudiejeans.com/recycle/#/recycled-rugs/&gt;)

“We love jeans, a passion we share with anyone who mourns a worn-out pair like the passing of an old friend” (Nudie, 2015). It is with this passion that Nudie takes back any of their customers worn out jeans for 20% off a new pair and recycles these old pairs, weaving the denim into beautiful woven rugs and stools or pulping the fibres, turning them into new denim fabric for their ‘post-recycle dry’ range. Nudie will do almost anything to keep their denim out of landfill, creating the ‘Denim Maniac’ project in which they collaborated with young designers who recycled old denim into couture runway creations giving new and vibrant life to scraps most people would throw in the bin.

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(Nudie’s ‘Reuse’ Denim Maniac project <http://www.nudiejeans.com/reuse/#/denim-maniacs/&gt;)

It is a mindset like this that makes Nudie part of the fashion revolution, finding beauty and inspiration in loved clothing. New is not always better. Cotton production is unavoidable but using it to it’s fullest potential is crucial.

 

References:

World Wildlife Fund, 2015, ‘Sustainable Agriculture – Cotton’, Online Article, Washington, viewed 29 April 2015, <https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton&gt;

World Wildlife Fund, 2015, ‘The Hidden Cost of Water, Online Article, Washington, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/rivers_and_lakes/the_hidden_cost_of_water.cfm&gt;

Nudie Jeans Co, 2015, ‘Recycling Jeans – Let Us Break It Down For You, Online Article, Sweden, viewed 29 April 2015, < http://www.nudiejeans.com/recycle/&gt;

Nudie Jeans Co, 2015, ‘Nudie Jeans Denim Maniacs, Online Article, Sweden, viewed 29 April 2015, < http://www.nudiejeans.com/reuse/#/denim-maniacs/

Post D: The Act Of Killing – A Gangsters Celebration of Genocide

‘The Act Of Killing” is an incredible documentary because it does not just expose the mass killing of over a million ‘communists’ in Indonesia following the 1665 coup, but allows this truth to be revealed by the very people who committed these crimes. The director of the film, Joshua Openheimer, allowed Anwar Congo, The head of a gang called the ‘Frog Squad’ and his associates who conducted many of these mass executions to direct a film recounting their own version of the events. “War crimes are defined by the winners. I am a winner so I can make my own definitions” (Congo, 2013).

There is a great emphasis on the word ‘gangster’ throughout the film as it is derived from idea of ‘free men’. Anwar and his friends wear this title proudly as if they are heroes in their favourite Hollywood films from which they adapted some of their killing techniques. These gangsters were excited to make the film as they saw it as a chance to create a heroic retelling of their lives that they could show to their children.

Early on in the film, Anwar acts out how he used to kill people in one of the killing sites. He demonstrates this in a matter-of-fact way then proceeds to dance the cha-cha. He says “it was like we were killing happily” (Congo, 2013). This brutal honesty is astounding as it appears that Anwar has no remorse for these events. Openheimer explains that this is no more that a façade, “They’re desperately trying to run away from the reality of what they’ve done. You celebrate mass killing so you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and see a murderer” (Openheimer, 2013). This is extremely confronting as a viewer as the level of corruption in Indonesia’s past becomes obvious. The screening of the film at a university in Yogyakarta “provoked anger and frustration among the audience. Many felt betrayed by the political elite” (Bjerregaard, 2014).

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(Still Frame from ‘The Act of Killing’ film – Anwar demonstrating killing with wire)

Anwar’s mood quickly changes as the film proceeds as he begins to realise the impact he has had on the lives of so many families. He begins to confront the ghosts of his past that haunt him in his sleep. “If we succeed in making this film, it will disprove all the propaganda about the communists being cruel and show that we were the cruel ones. (…) It’s not a problem for us, it’s a problem for history” (Congo, 2013). The dissonance in Anwar’s attitude towards his actions allows one to feel remorse for him as a human being despite the atrocities he has committed in his past.

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(Still Frame from ‘The Act of Killing’ film – Anwar feeling remorse as he acts out the part of the communist)

References:

The Act Of Killing, 2012, Motion Picture, Piraya Film and Novaya Zelmya Ltd in association with Spring Films Ltd, Denmark

Henry Barnes, 2013, Joshua Openheimer: ‘You celebrate mass killing so you don’t have to look yourself in the mirror’, The Guardian, London, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jun/20/joshua-oppenheimer-act-of-killing&gt;

Mette Bjerre, 2014, What Indonesians really think about The Act of Killing, The Guardian, London, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/mar/05/act-of-killing-screening-in-indonesia&gt;