Tag Archives: culture

Batik Artists: The Undervalued Cultural Heroes of Indonesia..

6 Jan

Batik is expensive.. but the artists receive awful wages

There is an article in Kompas today which made me really sad (click here to view – sorry it’s in Indonesian). The article is about how undervalued batik artists are. They work to create beautiful traditional textiles which shape the identity of this country. They work for long hours, with skill, patience and care. They receive Rp. 2,500 food money every day (25 cents), and get paid Rp. 11,000 – Rp. 25,000 per day (USD$ 1,10 – USD$ 2,50).

People are interested in batik again nowadays, some are highly priced, but some are even way too expensive. No wonder why people hesitate to buy it. But it really doesn’t make sense if  the batik artists who create batik for designers, get paid a very small wage.

The low wage for batik artists slows down the regeneration process. No matter how much they love batik, batik artists need to feed their families and earn a living. Can’t they get paid more? I can’t believe batik artists get paid next to nothing, and soap opera stars make a fortune. They’re both artists, they both have skills, both of their products create a lot of money. But why are batik artists less valued?

A number of successful artists out there can create tens or hundreds of millions of rupiah for one painting (and not all artists are that successful), however batik artists can never earn that much, even though they work every day, they constantly create and produce batik everyday. They are humans who need to earn a living, don’t treat them like factory machines.

Batik artists are the cultural heroes of this country. Same as tenun, songket, keris, wayang artists (and sooo much more). If we want batik to keep on existing and be preserved, we should start raising their wages, start valuing them more. Why is batik in the shopping malls so expensive, but the people who actually create the textiles are paid next to nothing? Who’s earning all the profits here?



We Are What We Wear

31 Dec

Javanese Cultural Evolution

As Indonesians, we look good in their traditional clothes and textiles. However, we are way too busy trying to copy what we see in MTV. As time goes by, Indonesians view their traditional clothes as “so yesterday”, “old”, as if it should be left behind. Then, when another country says that ‘batik’ is actually traditionally theirs, Indonesians got really angry. Well, where were you people??

It is incredibly irritating to see Indonesians dressed in emo clothing. I’m sorry but I just had to say it. They look really ridiculous. I used to see them walking around in malls, with their eyeliners and skinny jeans. We were made as Indonesians, wear our traditional clothes and textiles, they were created for us! Our ethnicities, our skin colours, they suit us. A long time ago, traditional textiles were worn every day, so we should be able to wear that now too.

When I lived in Australia, I saw African women in their traditional clothing, and Indian women in their saris (much prettier than when they wear miniskirts and tank tops)… and I thought to myself, wow they look beautiful! They look beautiful because those clothes are meant to be worn by them. Why can’t we Indonesians do that too? From that moment I started to believe that we would look better, more beautiful and attractive, if we just…. be ourselves. Be proud of your ethnicity. Wear your traditional clothes… because it just… suitable.


There are a lot of Indonesians who are like this...

Historical Artifacts Are Supposed to be Preserved and Protected

31 Dec

Don't sell historical artifacts!

It really saddens me when I know that the Indonesian historical artifacts in the Museums are only replicas, because the real ones are sold overseas. Many of the traditional daggers which are exhibited in the Solonese Royal Palace are also replicas, the real ones are sold for big money, and what’s more shocking is that the Solonese King (King Paku Buwono the 13th) did not even sign any letters which states his agreement to sell these historical daggers to someone outside the palace walls – so basically, these daggers were stolen.

In a sugar plantation, in Karangrejo Village, subdistrict of Garum, regency of Blitar, East Java, a statue of Shiva was found. After being examined by archeologists, the statue is now known to be made sometime between the years 700 – 900 AC. However, they later found out that under that plantation, hundreds of statues are still buried underground. Local people were starting to believe that it was probably an ancient city which had been buried through time. The Government of East Java had secured the place so nobody can steal the statues. BUT… of course there are some who were desperate for money and willing to do whatever to sell those statues. Some would sneak into the plantation at night.

I know that the economic value of these statues are very high, but can’t the people see that these artifacts are extremely important to preserve in order to build our national identity? Many people say that “we should move on from  the past”, but in this case, we have to learn how to appreciate our past to be able to face the future. Our ancestors created community, culture, tradition. Because of them, we exist. So when we see a historical artifact, donate it to the museum, to be studied, protected, preserved and looked after.