Little Public Participation on Batik Day in Jakarta

Two children play near batik-style murals as they wear batik clothing in Batik Village in South Jakarta on Tuesday. Tuesday was National Batik Day, with workshops on offer in the village and many Indonesians wearing the fabric to mark the occasion. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Three years after UNESCO designated batik as a cultural masterpiece, Jakartans seem to have forgotten the struggle by the government, with support from the country’s batik artists, to receive acknowledgement.

Some blamed the government for the lack of awareness that Oct. 2 has been declared Batik Day, the day that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated batik as a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity” in 2009. It was also insisted that Indonesians preserve their heritage.

“I didn’t know that Oct. 2 was Batik Day. All I know is that my office requires me to wear batik on Fridays,” said Agus Riadi, 26, an employee of a private bank in Central Jakarta. “I would have worn batik had I known today was Batik Day.”

Agus thinks that the government might have not been active enough in promoting Batik Day.

Although batik designs can be found in other countries like China, Africa and Egypt, UNESCO had acknowledged that the dyeing technique was uniquely Indonesian. Neni, 27, an employee of another private company in Central Jakarta, said she remembered the day on Tuesday, but added that most of her colleagues were unaware or did not care about the day.

“I don’t see many people wearing batik today,” said Neni who wore a blue-colored batik shirt.

“Interestingly, or sadly, it’s foreign institutions like embassies that have actually made their employees wear batik today,” she added.

However, all of the House of Representatives lawmakers that attended the plenary session on Tuesday wore batik because “they were aware of the day”.

“Even my housemaid knows that today is Batik Day. She wore batik today, so why shouldn’t I?” said legislator Tubagus Hasanudin of the House Commission I overseeing defense.

In the past three years, the government has taken some measures to promote batik as a world-class product, including by drafting a blueprint on batik preservation and development to set quality standards for batik production.

Businesses consider labeling to be important in order to protect locally made batik products from imported products, especially from China, which have increasingly flooded the domestic market, and to raise awareness among local customers about homemade batik products.

With the blueprint, the government expects the batik industry to become a driver of the micro economy by 2025, as 99.39 percent of all 55,912 batik producers according to 2010 data comprised micro- and small-sized enterprises.

Exports, according to the blueprint, are expected to grow on average by 10 percent from 2012 to 2015 along with government efforts to diversify its markets.

Exports increased by 55.94 percent to US$22.3 million in 2010 from $14.3 million in 2006.

Indonesia’s main export destinations for batik products are currently the United States, Japan and European countries, such as Belgium, Germany and Sweden, with growing demand from neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia. JP

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