Quarterly essay ✿ Batik journeys between the three worlds: Here, there and everywhere

Elly Kent

7 September 2020

Dias Prabu at work

Elly Kent follows the path of batik as a way to explore the complex dynamic of Indonesian culture and to discover a much-needed optimism for our time.

(A message to the reader.)


Making at Babaran Segeragunung

On this particular morning in 2018, the heat was, to reprise a cliché, oppressive. The wet season was out of sync and the humid air of Yogyakarta in February was trapped against the streets by a haze of petrol fumes. The sunlight was a sharp, nostalgic yellow interspersed with long blue shadows as I waited for my motorcycle taxi, or ojek, outside my homestay.

The temperature dropped as the concrete receded behind us on the journey to the southeastern skirts of the city. More green filtered into my vision, colourful murals became rarer, walls lower, vehicles fewer. Rice fields rolled out across the low hills, punctuated by occasional double-storey dwellings, their façades brightly painted and sides left raw with white mortar oozing between the bricks. Here and there a copse of trees promised cool shade and everywhere vines and palms proliferated. The cooler air was palpable on the back of the bike, but when I dismounted the humidity caught in my throat again. It was like breathing soup.

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