Are you running out of ideas on how to spend your free time during this Conditioned Movement Control Order (CMCO)? How about reconnecting with our local art that you’re most probably familiar with, but never knew you could actually try for yourselves? I’m talking about our beloved Malaysian batik! Sit back, relax, and meditate with batik painting at the comfort of your own home! (Who knows, you might just discover a new talent!)

However, before that, let us take a sneak peek into the history, types, techniques, and its frequent appearances in the daily life of a Malaysian. Going back in time, batik has been documented as far as the 16th century in the Malay Archipelago, according to http://mybatik.org.my/. The Javanese, in particular, were the ones to invent canting; a pen-like utensil used to trace lines with wax. Following that, the art of batik evolved as the Javanese proceeded to develop copper blocks, achieving results of intricate, high-quality patterns faster than hand-painting.

Photo courtesy of jadibatek.com

While there is no clear-cut evidence as to when Malaysian batik production began, it is known that the Javanese batik has been the main influence of our local batik that we don today. Malaysian batik mainly comprises of two major types: 1) hand-drawn batik, and 2) block-printed batik. Head down to http://mybatik.org.my/ for more extensive information, from an elaboration on the history of batik art, to step-by-step process of making batik.

Photo courtesy of ttrn.com and penangbatik.com.my

Now, how can we differentiate between Malaysian and Indonesian or Javanese batik? In techniques, Malaysian batik utilises brush painting more than canting, thus creating a larger and simpler pattern, in contrast to intricate patterns that are resulted from using canting. Another way to differentiate between the two, is by the colour scheme. Malaysian batik often opts for lighter and more vibrant colours, while Indonesian batik is more inclined to deep, earthy colours.

Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com

The most common patterns of Malaysian batik are of large floral motifs and spirals. Gradually, more abstract and minimal batik patterns are produced in more pastel hues, following the evolving fashion trend. This has allowed Malaysian batik to be worn not only as a traditional, casual wear, but also as an exclusive apparel, both by men and women. Our beloved batik can never go wrong either way!

Photo courtesy of femalemag.com.my
Photo courtesy of thebatikboutique.com

Personally, I find it wonderful that our traditional wear remains as an every-day attire donned proudly by all Malaysians. To continue celebrating this beloved art, the government has also made batik attire compulsory on every working Thursday for civil servants!

Although batik was initially prominent in the east coast, particularly Kelantan and Terengganu, other states have also emerged with their own distinctive batik patterns and motifs.

For example, while batik from the east coast comprises of the classic large floral prints and geometric patterns, batik in Johor, south of Malaysia, has a touch of Javanese and Sumatran influence. Some of its more popular motifs include pineapple and kuda kepang, a traditional dance also originated in Java.

Johor batik at Johor Craft Festival 2016. Photo courtesy of pressreader.com

On the other hand, in East Malaysia, batik is more commonly infused with traits of the flora, fauna, and various ethnicities in Sabah and Sarawak, such as the Rafflesia flower, traditional musical instruments, and ethnic patterns.

Photo courtesy of Audra Creations

For decades, batik has appeared in many occasions and parts of a Malaysian’s life! You can find batik on comfortable sarongs and caftans that are often the “uniform” at home, or you can find it printed on your folding hand fans, or, you can also see our beautiful cabin crew donning their batik kebaya uniforms when you board a Malaysia Airlines flight (or maybe just a visit to KLIA)!

Photo courtesy of nst.com.my

Not only that, batik is also widely used on items for souvenirs and exclusive merchandise. From your usual fridge magnets, bookmarks, and batik sarongs, to travel kits, kitchenware, soft toys, and jewellery! Simply put, you name it, and we’ll make it happen (if we don’t have it already!). There is just something when it comes to batik and how it gives life to everything it touches, don’t you think?

Homeware: serviettes, coasters, placemat, and straw pouch. Photo courtesy of thebatikboutique.com
Travel accessories and apparel: passport holder, tumbler, necktie, pouch, card holder, key fob. Photo courtesy of thebatikboutique.com

In light of our current Covid-19 crisis, many have also come up with designing reusable batik face masks for good causes. Some sell to donate proceeds to charity, while some promote reducing of wastage. Our very own branch in Germany has also joined the bandwagon by distributing batik face masks to the industry players!

Did you know that we also have an internationally acclaimed 2D animation called the Batik Girl? The 9-minute animation produced by The R&D Studio, in collaboration with writer Heidi Shamsuddin, Tudidut Studio and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Music, has received numerous accolades worldwide! Do not miss the chance to watch it here.

Photo courtesy of therakyatpost.com

Going back to unlocking your inner creativity with Malaysian batik, you can now do so by purchasing DIY batik kits online! Find these kits easily on Shopee or Lazada, as low as RM3.00! Yes, you heard that right. The kits are available for both kids and adults. If you are already artistic in nature, start from scratch by purchasing canting tools and materials, and get those creative juices flowing. Even easier, try glue batik! A guaranteed, fun and easy technique for both adults and kids!

Photo courtesy of firstpalette.com

Don’t forget to decorate your homes with the finished products in beautiful frames. They surely will lighten and liven the space! Because if there is one thing our Malaysian batik can do, it is to brighten up anything, anyone, or any place with its presence. Don’t you think so?