CELEBRATING ONE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL PARTS
OF MALAYSIAN IDENTITY AND HERITAGE
Batik is entrenched into the very fabric of Malaysian cultural heritage, evolving to become steeped in local tradition and imagery while retaining it's legacy of cross-cultural exchange.
Our batik is traditionally handmade by three artisans in Terengganu, a state on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.
While there are various types of batik practiced all over the country, we focus specifically on ‘batik cop’ (block batik), which Terengganu is famous for.
OUR SEARCH FOR THE DWINDLING ARTISANS
We made it our mission to find the traditional Terengganu’s batik artisans for our first INKAA t-shirts. So we started by strolling along the narrow passageway of fabric stores at Pasar Payang, however most of the batik were either imported or screen-printed.
A couple of shopkeepers pointed us towards Seberang Takir, where “you can probably find two or three batik workshops”. At its height, there were over 300 batik artisans in the area before rapid industrialisation of the nineties and the economic crisis at the end of the decade contributed to the rapid decline in batik craft.
We stepped on the colourful penambang boat and paid the RM1 fare to get across the river to Seberang Takir Jetty.
Our most obvious start was Wan Azhar batik, the most well-known batik maker in Terengganu), only to find an abandoned workshop. The daughter of late Wan Azhar answered the door and explained that they only have one artisan left.
Disappointed with what we saw, we wandered along the Seberang Takir river bank before a salam from a man sitting on his veranda stopped us. After explaining the reason we were there, he brought us to the back of his neighbour’s house.
We knew all hope was not lost when the familiar smell of hot wax greeted us upon arrival.
That’s how we get to know three experienced batik artisans who made the pockets of our t-shirts! We have been collaborating with the artisans to make our unique INKAA pieces ever since.
The challenges that are currently being faced by the batik industry in Terengganu include:
Batik used to be an essential part of the
daily lives of
Modern printing machines lead to faster production and cheaper prices
Difficult to recruit permanent workers, especially among the youth
few block makers left
Skilled block-makers are few in numbers in both Terengganu and Kelantan
WE BELIEVE that EDUCATION IS KEY TO PRESERVATION AND CONSERVATION OF BATIK
the process of batik
Creating batik consists of different stages requiring a variety of skills. From planning the design, to applying wax to dying can take weeks of preparation and work.
There are two main ways of applying wax for batik: batik cop and batik tulis
Learn more about the process by watching our artisans at work below!
For batik cop, hand-crafted stamps made from strips of metal are used to print on the wax. The stamps provide for a immersive and exquisite array of pattern-work. The use of the block print means that creating the design requires extensive deliberation and planning.
To create each block is the task of specialist block makers, or ‘tukang blok’ in Malay. The batik block is usually made from recycled tin cans, zinc or brass.
Once cut into metal strips, they are twisted into the shape of the desired design set within a frame to attach a curved iron handle on the reverse side. Another name for this assembly is a sarang bunga, or flower nest.
Batik tulis uses hand-drawn patterns which are done using a canting stylus. This allows the artisan to produce more intricate and delicate designs.
drawing with wax
Hand-drawn batik requires the use of a canting stylus. The canting is made up of a small brass bowl that holds the molten wax, and a tiny spout which the wax runs from.
Unlike with batik cop more delicate fabrics (like silk, rayon and cotton lawn), are used for batik tulis. The cloth is stretched across a wooden frame so that it remains taut during the drawing process.