Fabric of Enchantment : Batik from the North Coast of Java

Fabric of Enchantment : Batik from the North Coast of Java

Fabric of Enchantment : Batik from the North Coast of Java
Herringa, Rens and Veldhuisen, Harmen C
Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Weatherhill, Inc., 1996

This book serves as the catalogue of the Inger McCabe Elliott batik collection,
which was donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1991. McCabe Elliott
states that “my collection draws almost exclusively from the exuberant fabrics of north
coast Java, the Pasisir, an area almost forgotten by earlier batik scholars, who
concentrated on the courtly textiles of central Java. Making sense of these cloths has
proven to be a formidable challenge, requiring both visual skills and historical insight.”

The essay “Batik Pasisir as Mestizo Costume” by Rens Heringa, an anthropologist
involved with Javanese and Pasisir batik as wearer, craftswoman, and researcher for
many years, discusses the role of batik cloth in indicating group affiliation, as women’s
property, the role of Javanese female batik traders in providing batik textiles to well-to-do European and Indo-European women up to the mid-nineteenth century who were often segregated and secluded in house compounds, and the evolution of Javanese dress through the 20th century. “Instead of serving as lingua franca, it [batik Pasisir] consisted of a series of different dialects and Creole languages based on the same roots.”

This book has one of the best discussions and illustrations of costume of those I
reviewed. The essay, “The Role of Entrepreneurs in the Stylistic Development of Batik
Pasisir,” by Harmen Velduisen, a well-known collector of Javanese batik and author of
Batik Belanda 1840-1940: Dutch Influence in Batik from Java: History and Stories
(1993), presents the best discussion in English that I have encountered on Indo-European, Peranakan, Javanese and Indo-Arabian entrepreneurs active along the north coast of Java, spanning the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Catalogue, written by Heringa and Velduisen together, classifies the collection of 82 batik textiles into (i) traditional Pasisir style batik in red and blue, (ii) diversification: batik from Peranakan and Indo-European entrepreneurs, (iii) Pekalongan: stronghold of batik belanda (after 1860), (iv) Emblems of Colonial power, (v) modifications by Peranakan entrepreneurs for Peranakan wearers, (vi) return of the kain panjang (vii) additions to traditional Pasisir dress, and (viii) ceremonial cloths. The authors discuss the maker and wearer of each textile presented, introducing characteristics of particular batik designers or workshops and the person who generally wore the particular textile.

A very useful appendix illustrates the design format and stylistic variations of the
kain panjang and sarung, variations in design format indicating wearer’s marital status,
free or slave status prior to 1860, and ethnic distinctions.



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