Wed, 24 May 2000

Batik auction to help out bright but needy students

By Pavan Kapoor

JAKARTA (JP): Many a woman has lovingly caressed the soft fabric of her stole and proudly claimed it to be inherited from her mother or grandmother. After all, an heirloom means more than any price tag can.

All mothers have that one special item carefully wrapped in the upper corner of the attic which awaits presentation to their children on a special occasion.

But Nunny Asmuni Said is a different kind of mother. She plans to have her legacy reach further than her own children and touch the lives of hundreds of students.

Nunny is auctioning 150 of her antique batik outfits at the International Cultural Activity Center (ICAC) on May 26. The auction will be opened by Minister of Settlement and Regional Development Erna Witoelar. The auction will be open to public on May 27.

All the proceeds from the auction will be donated to the ICAC Leadership Development and Scholarship Program to assist final year university students who have been forced to drop out or are struggling to survive due to the economic crisis.

Perhaps the auction can be called the vision of one woman for helping the country deal with the crisis.

Nunny has four daughters. At the auction she will be represented by her youngest daughter Shinta, who sought the assistance of a textile curator from a museum to value the pieces that are to be auctioned.

"We could easily have kept some of her exquisite pieces for ourselves but we respect mother's wishes," said Shinta. "She believes that if we kept the collection, it would only go as far as the family. But if we auction the collection and use the money to help educate needy university students it is an investment that will go much further. By letting go of her batik collection, mother hopes to contribute to the recovery from the economic crisis in her own humble way."

Shinta explained the history and the value of some of the exhibits to be auctioned. Some of the pieces were passed down from Nunny's grandmother; there is even one designed by Iwan Tirta specially for her grandmother.

Of the 150 up for auction, about 25 are very special antique batiks. There are a couple of pieces from East Kalimantan that have a unique shocking pink color and an exclusive pattern, which may well have been designed under the influence of artisans from China or Tibet.

Individual philosophy

Batik designs are something which bear significance to the occasion they are worn for and so every design has its own individual philosophy. Batiks worn for weddings, funerals, childbirth and other occasions are each different. A batik collector or curator who has studied the art of batik understands the significance of antique batik textiles and garments. And perhaps that is why invitees to the auction include guests such as Iwan Tirta, Mrs. Ginandjar Kartasasmita from Yayasan Batik Indonesia and established batik designers and retailers such as Danar Hadi.

Some of the pieces are traditional Pekalongan batiks, which are about 75 years to 80 years old. An eye-opening exhibit, which Shinta hopes will fetch a good price, is a piece from Pekalongan, painted in 25 karat gold.

Another rare piece from Jambi in Sumatra features calligraphic Arabic letters. It shows a similarity to the traditional Indian Patolla print and dates back more than half a century.

Nunny's traditional and antique batik sarongs and selendang stoles are worthy of an institution such as the ICAC, which carries out charity work in a unique manner.

The executive director of the ICAC, Velvy Holden, said that the scholarship program is one with a difference. It not only provides financial assistance to needy students, but also works with them to help them become more productive members of society.

The ICAC Leadership Development Scholarship Program, which is headed by Sri Lienau, has assisted about 47 university students up till now.

"Each student is selected by the social service committee of the center based on family income, good academic standing, leadership potential and willingness to work part-time in the community," Sri said.

The students are those who are excelling academically but due to poverty are finding it difficult sustain themselves through the final year. They are often the children of pedicab drivers, warung food stall owners or noodle vendors.

"They are the students who want to forge ahead and make something of their lives and yet due to financial circumstances are unable to. You cannot learn on an empty stomach," says Sri.

Every student who is selected gets about Rp 3 million annually, which only covers about 75 percent of their needs. The center hopes to attract donations from people who see the honest efforts made by each scholarship recipient.