Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Batik course revives city's Textile Museum

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Where is the best place in the capital to get first-hand experience in dyeing batik, traditional Indonesian fabric, for only Rp 250,000 (US$29.41)?

Such a program is offered by the city-run Textile Museum on Jl. K.S. Tubun No. 4, Tanah Abang, West Jakarta.

The six-day course has been going on for the past three years and has become one of the main attractions of the museum, apart from its collection of numerous traditional costumes from all over Indonesia.

For a relatively small amount of money, interested people, both locals and foreigners, can take the course that teaches both the theory and practice of making batik and other traditional clothes.

Each participant will get a starting kit of a canting (dipper), a tiny pan and a small kerosene stove to melt the wax that is used in the process. The kit can also serve as a nice souvenir.

The course also includes molani (drafting and designing motifs with a pencil), nglowongi (drawing the pencil-draft motifs using a dipper), nerusi (continuing the drawing process with a dipper), mbironi (coloring the background) and nglorod (wax removal).

Part of the course will take students to the museum's nearby garden to observe the dye-producing plants. This serves to enlighten participants on the traditional way of dyeing, even though most fabrics these days use mass-produced synthetic dyes. Nevertheless, a small number of batik artists in rural Javanese regions still use the natural dye to produce their traditional clothes.

Bayu Niti Purnama, an official with the museum, said that the course was a breakthrough and had injected new life into the museum, which previously had little recognition from the public.

"Before we had the course, we only had a few visitors. They were probably fed up with the boring regular displays," he told The Jakarta Post recently, adding that it was a common problem for other museums across the city.

"Since the batik program started three years ago, people have started visiting the museum not only to enjoy the displays, but also for the course,"

At present, there is a waiting list for people who want to take the course.

"We have between five and 10 people every week who line up to enjoy the experience," Bayu proudly said.

The Textile Museum hosts hundreds of rare centuries-old traditional designs, woven products and accessories.

Situated next to a bustling street leading to the Tanah Abang textile market, the largest in Southeast Asia, the museum building is incongruous in the midst of street vendors' makeshift tents surrounding it.

The art-deco building is an attraction in itself. Movie and video directors have several times shot their films in the well- maintained building and its surrounding garden.

The building was originally built as a private residence for a French expatriate in the 19th century. It was later purchased by Turkey, as the official residence of envoy Abdul Aziz al Musawi.

The building changed ownership from the envoy to a Dutch family, then to a Chinese-Indonesian family and finally the government, before it became the Textile Museum in June 1976.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.