The History of Batik

While the exact origin of batik may not ever be known, we see its influences all over the world. It is the practice of applying wax to the surface of materials (usually cloth) and then dying it. Once the dye has dried the wax is removed leaving behind strikingly beautiful designs that have drawn in people from all cultures and backgrounds. These practices are used today in creating many of Tumbu Sapa’s fine Indonesian crafts and jewelry.

Its Origins

Even though we may not be able to tell where this highly popular artistic practice started it is possible to trace its roots back for several thousand years. There is evidence that the Far East, Middle East, and Central Asia were practicing batik as far back as 2000 years ago. Many historians believe that the craft spread from Asia to the Malay Archipelago and into the Middle East through heavily traveled trade routes. It is clear that the Chinese were practicing the art during the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618).

Its Spread

Over the years, evidence of batiks were found in frescoes in the Ajunta caves of India. They show head wraps and other garments that many believe were decorated with batik. In Indonesia, the ruins of several temples show figures that could have been clothed in garments that also suggest the craft was practiced. By 1677 AD, it is clear that the practice has spread throughout the world with fabrics appearing in Egypt, Java, Sumatra, Persia, Hindustan, and parts of Africa.

Its Peak

While many cultures have adapted the art, Indonesia clearly is where it has shown the greatest success. By the 1800s the craft had become so popular that the Dutch brought a number of Indonesian craftsmen back to Holland to teach the art to workers in several factories. Since then, the Swiss and the Germans as well as other cultures have developed the craft and begun mass producing it in many forms.

Today, because the craft has spread beyond decorating traditional garb to include batik designed necklaces and batik designed bracelets there is no doubt that this form of art has only grown in its popularity over the centuries and will continue to spread for many more generations to come. Whether you’re impressed with the popular style batik clothing or the source of inspiration for the decorative batik dolls or batik needle cushions, you’ll find it is the kind of artwork that transcends all types of cultures and backgrounds. The art has now expanded beyond its original use to one that can be appreciated no matter where you are or come from.

Image courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade


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