Jakarta’s Betawi Batik Tradition



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.[1] The Betawis are mostly descended from Southeast Asian ethnic groups such as MalaySundaneseJavaneseBalineseMinangBugis, Makassar, Ambonese, mixed with foreign ethnic groups such as MardijkerPortugueseDutchArabChinese 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.



Indonesia’s Burgeoning Creative Industry

Indonesia is a vast country with a population of at least 240 million people living across 17,000 islands. If you’ve ever visited the country you will have noticed the very DIY (do it yourself) attitude of Indonesians and their accompanying creative approach to life. Everywhere you look you’re likely see someone engaged in an actively making something. Whether they’re building, painting, strumming a guitar, carving intricate pieces of furniture, busking, cooking intricate cuisine. From the street seller or the inter-generational craftsman, to graduates of the nations finest art schools to those who sell works at international art auction houses, Indonesia is a country bursting with creative talent.

Not surprisingly, this attitude is also spilling into the creative sector of Indonesia’s economy, and Indonesia’s creative industry is emerging as a major economic sector in the country’s rapidly developing economy.

Indonesia’s culture and history and was inspired by the untapped potential the country has to monetize its arts and culture industry. The country’s first president, Sukarno, recognised the power in public art and engaged artists to create sculptures and artworks to inspire and evoke national pride after centuries of colonisation.

Indonesia’s creative industries are similar to the those abroad and include everything from film, music, fashion, architecture and gaming, and many other. Indonesia is clearly reaping the benefits of this fast-growing industry which has an output accounting for 7 percent GDP in 2011.

The power of the Indonesian consumer market is also growing at a rapid pace. In total there are about 74 million middle-class and affluent consumers (MACs) in Indonesia and this number will double by 2020 to roughly 141 million people. As the number of MACs increases so does the amount of disposable income, meaning individuals are more inclined to spend — and invest — on lifestyle choices, such as fashion, art, performance.

But Indonesia is not only looking towards it’s own MAC market. The country’s tourism and arts ministry is actively promoting inter-country partnerships across the creative industries to further develop its creative economy.

During November 2012 Indonesia and the UK signed an MOU relating the the creative industries between the two countries. Partnerships between the two countries’ creative industries had been grown out of a successful partnership linking the British Council (BC), Femina Media Group for Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW), UK’s Centre of Fashion Enterprise (CFE), and the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy (MTCE).


Jakarta Fashion Week (a mix of the traditional and modern). Photo courtesy news.cn

The MoU strengthened the connection between the UK and Indonesia for exchange of information and share of best practice, knowledge, and resources providing a framework to replicate the success of the Fashion partnership for the other Creative Industries such as performing arts, film and animation, arts and crafts and design.

Indonesia and South Korea have also joined forces for developing further partnerships between the two countries around the creative industries. In October 2013 the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to boost cooperation to promote creative industries. They agreed to bolster cooperation in art, crafts, music, film, performing arts and video games.

Activities resulting from these MoU will create greater opportunities to engage creative talent to develop innovation and greater collaboration. Openness to engagement with other nations who prioritise the creative industries will also, of course, open doors to Indonesian creative entrepreneurs to further develop businesses to create employment and economic growth for Indonesia. The creative industries will develop local, regional and international influence.

Indeed, it is widely recognised that tourism and the creative sector sectors, combined, have the power to bring much economic benefit to Indonesia, and can also be a powerful economic stream through which Indonesia can work toward alleviating poverty. As such, thedeep melting pot of creativity bubbling away in Indonesia has a huge potential to not only assist the lives of artists and artisans themselves, but also the economy of Indonesia as a whole.


Kate Grealy, Tresno Artisanry Indonesia

@tresnoartisanry @kategrealy