Batik Diplomacy: Our Proud, Our Pride And Our Responsibility
By: Made Aini, Mahasiswa Hubungan Internasional Universitas Katolik Parahyangan, Angkatan 2018
Detiknews.id – Since 2010 Indonesia celebrate 2 October as Hari Batik Nasional. This is to commemorate the stipulation of batik as a Humanitarian Heritage for Oral and Non-Cultural Culture (Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity) on 2 October 2009 by UNESCO. Of course, this is a matter of pride for all Indonesian. But like other inheritance, this is something that is at the same time become our responsibility to maintain its continuity and pass it to the next generation.
In reality, we are facing many problems to maintain the sustainability of the batik. From the Ministry of Industry’s record, the export value of batik cloth and batik products in 2016 reached USD149.9 million with its main markets Japan, the United States, and Europe. In 2017, batik exports fell 61% and only reached USD58.46 million or equivalent to IDR820.4 billion (exchange rate of IDR14,000/USD) with the main markets still in Japan, the United States, and Europe. At that time, batik entrepreneurs in Indonesia are dominated by small and medium industries (IKM) spread across 101 centers with the number of workers absorbed in the batik IKM center reached 15 thousand people. And throughout 2018, again from the Ministry of Industry noted that Indonesian batik exports reached US $ 52.4 million or around IDR747.4 billion. Director General of Small and Medium Industries of the Ministry of Industry (Ministry of Industry) Gati Wibawaningsih said the decline in exports of 2017 was due to a drop in demand from global markets, due to weak purchasing power.
Moreover, economic conditions are also being sluggish, which has a significant impact on batik exports. Gati acknowledged, the potential market for batik is still a domestic scale, which is 90%, while the rest is export. This is why, according to her, the promotion of batik by the government will be more intense, as an effort to expand the market. “Indonesian batik has no competition because it’s uniqueness. “China and Malaysia cannot make things like us, they were different,” Gati said at one Batik exhibition event in Jakarta (Investor Daily – 16/5/2018).
There are several things that make batik or tenun/ikat facing this problem. In terms of usage, it is relatively limited because it is usually worn for formal events. In addition, because the making process is difficult and time-consuming, the price becomes expensive. As a result, only a view group of people can afford it. And this has an impact on the income of batik artistries, no wonder who is at the end have decided to leave the batik industry and moved to more profitable businesses such as selling phone data.
Another problem is due to the low interest of batik in the younger generation which has sparked a new question of whether or not batik will withstand the test of time. There are thousands of batik designs from all over Indonesia, and many have gone extinct due to the low interest. This ‘low interest’ problem is not only from the consumer side as an end market but also from the side of the artisan. Because most of the batik makers in Indonesia are over 40 years old.
Therefore, the Ministry of Industry and related stakeholders are intensively conducting socialization and educating batik skills to the younger generation from elementary school to university level. In addition to providing skills, the younger generation also needs to be convinced that the profession of being a batik craftsman or business in the batik industry has a promising prospect.
The effort to increase the awareness of keeping the batik and tenun alive in Indonesia has been going on for the past 10 years. For example by holding exhibitions that present our cultural heritage including batik and tenun. In addition, guidance is also provided for batik craftsmen so that they can create works that follow international trends and also improve the quality of their production. So that the affordable price is reasonable to compete in the fashion market.
Back in February, a few of Indonesia’s fashion designers have been given the chance to grace the catwalk of a New York Fashion Week, a prestigious fashion event sought for by many other aspiring designers. This is also a way to introduce batik and weaving to the international fashion market. The chosen designers are Itang Yunasz, Dian Pelangi, 2 Madison Avenue by Maggie Hutauruk Eddy, and Alleira Batik. The appearance of these designers has brought attention to both the art and culture of Indonesia. Itang Yunasz brought a whole ikat collection inspired by the beauty of Sumba Island.
Despite its approach to displaying Sumba’s beauty, he managed to make the collection looked chic and modern. While Dian Pelangi brought batik in a contemporary pattern. Nowadays, the approach of batik is no longer boring. Many young designers who managed to make their own brand has used the textile to produce a line of modern and up to date designs that incorporate batik as its essence.
This is a good approach, many brands are emerging with their own designs and takes on making the batik more wearable. Wearing batik doesn’t feel sacred anymore and rather a pop of statement in an outfit. So than batik can be seen worn as a day to day outfit, it can be worn both for formal and informal events.
Through fashion, many designers have tried to showcase the beauty of Indonesia’s traditional textile, batik, and for sure, many have been hooked upon its elegance. With the richness of colors and designs, every batik pattern shows different stories and a different vibe. Many designers have used fashion as a gateway to introducing not only the culture of Indonesia but also the art department in Indonesia.
Last Tuesday, batik again became the world’s attention while Indonesia for the first time chaired the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session in New York. In this very important moment, batik becomes the dress code. This is an appreciation from members of the UN Security Council for Indonesia who hold the UN Security Council presidency starting this May 2019 Every foreign minister in that session wore batik from their personal collection. Batik beautifully filled the meeting room, as many had only known that there is only traditional batik with the mundane brown and eggshell colors, in this meeting, each cloth sparks different colors and tells different stories.
With the publicity of this meeting, this has been a successful way of to increasingly popularize and keeping the batik alive on the international level, also spreading Indonesia’s cultural diversity and unity, or Bhineka Tunggal Ika into the international eyes. And this seems to be in line with the UNSC Open Debate’s theme “Investing in Peace,” which was held to constantly foster the capacity building of peacekeeping forces in various UN missions worldwide.
We certainly feel proud to see batik appearing in a prestigious and highly valued international official forum. This is a remarkable achievement. The use of batik in the UNSC Session is expected to increasingly popularize batik which has now been recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. Behind the struggle for the life of the batik industry in Indonesia, batik has gained its own place in the international world and unwittingly has become a communication tool that enhances the power of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika to the international world, and this is expected to become a new energy that builds the spirit of all nations on the sustainability of the batik industry by developing and using it.
Batik is not only the pride of the Indonesian people but behind it, there is a huge responsibility for us to continue to maintain and develop batik and all the related industries within until we can pass it on to the next generation.
Further Reading: (http://www.kemenperin.go.id/artikel/19253/Tembus-Pasar-Jepang-Hingga-Eropa,-Ekspor-Batik-Nasional-Lampaui-USD-58-Juta).