I was on an Air Asia flight a couple of days ago and read about a great initiative aimed at reviving traditional trades and professions through community-led conservation efforts in their in-flight magazine. The project in the article highlighted a collaborative initiative between expert designers from the UK, and traditional Jogja silversmiths called ‘Conservation Through Enterprise’.
Iconic Ondel-Ondel of Jakarta’s Betawi People – image from twicsy.com
Two women are drawing ondel-ondel (traditional Betawi giant effigies) with hot wax on pieces of brown cloth on the terrace of a house in Terogong, South Jakarta, while two others are busy preparing batik for display.
Aap Hafizoh, one of the women who works at the Terogong Betawi batik workshop, told The Jakarta Post that batik with motifs reminiscent of Jakarta, such as ondel-ondel and the National Monument (Monas), attracted buyers, particularly tourists visiting the capital city.
“As demand is increasing, we are producing more batik with Jakarta-related designs,” she said.
She said that Betawi batik had its own traditional motifs, like buketan (flowers), but demand for such designs was low.
Siti Laela, a 50-year-old Betawi native who owns the workshop, said the prospects for a Betawi batik business were promising, even though its development had been reinvigorated only within the last few years.
“Although my revenue is still unstable, it has been increasing since I opened the workshop in September 2012,” she said.
Siti explained that the workshop’s monthly sales, for example, had increased to between Rp 15 million (US$1,320) and Rp 25 million this year, up from between Rp 6 million and Rp 10 million in 2013.
However, despite the promising outlook, Betawi batik producers needed to work hard to popularize their products because their competitors from other regions, many of whom have produced batik for far longer, were also promoting their own products, she said.
Batik is becoming more popular in Indonesia and a number of regions in the country are revitalizing their batik production since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Indonesian batik to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in August 2009.
Laela said Betawi batik was still struggling to gain the same popularity as batik from other regions, such as Pekalongan and Surakarta in Central Java, and Yogyakarta.
She said her business had become more popular, thanks to media coverage.
“It would be hard for me to promote the business on my own as my finances are limited,” she said.
Nur Yaum, the owner of the Gandaria Betawi batik workshop, also in Terogong, said that her business was growing more popular as several government institutions bought batik uniforms for their employees.
She said the workshop’s income ranged between Rp 5 million and Rp 10 million per month.
“Besides the lower popularity, the Betawi batik industry is also facing a challenge in recruiting human resources,” Laela said.
She added that she had tried to encourage unemployed women living near her workshop to work for her, but they were not interested.
Laela’s workshop only employs eight women, meaning they have to work overtime when several orders come in at once.
Shanda Chandradini, deputy chairman of the Betawi Batik Family (KBB), a community of Betawi batik makers in Jakarta, said half of the group’s 12 members had difficulties in obtaining production equipment, such as canting (a pen-like tool for imprinting designs with hot wax), dyes and wax pans.
“Because of the lack of equipment, some of our members have to dye the cloth and cleanse wax at the KBB’s workshop in Marunda, North Jakarta,” she said.
Shanda said another challenge in developing Betawi batik businesses in Jakarta was the environmental impact.
“KBB members based in Betawi batik workshops have expressed their concerns about the management of the waste produced,” she added.
Shanda said that to help overcome some of the challenges, the Jakarta administration planned to establish a workshop in cluster C at the Marunda low-cost apartment complex in North Jakarta to support the Betawi batik industry.
Meanwhile, Laela proposed that the administration should establish an exhibition space in the heart of the city to promote Betawi batik.
Note from Tresno Artisanry – The Betawi (Orang Betawi, or “people of Batavia”; also called “Betokaw” in Betawi slang) are the descendants of the people living around Batavia (the colonial name for Jakarta) from around the 17th century. The Betawis are mostly descended from Southeast Asian ethnic groups such as Malay, Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Minang, Bugis, Makassar, Ambonese, mixed with foreign ethnic groups such as Mardijker, Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, Chinese andIndian brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs, including people from Indonesia. They have a culture and language distinct from the surrounding Sundanese and Javanese. The Betawis are known for their music, traditions and food as well as being overtly Islamic, egalitarian, short tempered, direct and open to others.