May 10, 2019

Dior and their new 'African inspired' collection

"Cross-culturalism has been a recurring motif in the work of Chiuri, whose pan-African collection for Valentino for spring/summer 2016 strove to build bridges between Europeans and African refugees following the migrant crisis at the time. “We think every person coming here is an individual, and we can show that we can improve ourselves by understanding other cultures,” 
she said, in 2015. The show, however, met with criticism for its lack of diversity on the runway, arguments fuelled by the cultural appropriation debates that peaked on social media that year. 
But the collection would become a learning curve for both Chiuri and her co-creative director at Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli." 1)

"Dior launches radical collection promoting local African print"
Dior’s new global outlook has certainly been met with criticism along the lines of cultural appropriation, especially as the designs were worn by non-African models. On Instagram, the luxury label shared videos of local artisans making the fabrics, but some questioned the notion of a French label profiting from the craft of another, previously colonial, culture.
However valid the criticism, we approve of any brand promoting transparency in the sourcing and manufacturing of their materials. Moreover, Anne Grosfilley {researcher} maintains, “This collection is not about an idea of an ‘African look’. It’s a celebration of African savoir-faire, and it will be a part of a real African economy.” 2)

"Dior and the Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
The French brand holds the first cruise extravaganza in Africa, 
and tries to start a new kind of conversation." 3)

"Wax started in Europe and moved through Asia, then back to Africa. It’s a technique that really went around the world,” Chiuri explained, of the material’s roots. “The collection speaks a lot about craftsmanship travelling around the world. In this moment, there’s a lot of attention to cultural appropriation, but I think we have to explain how craftsmanship travels around the world; why it’s often so difficult to find the ‘real’ reference.”
“A global brand like Dior, which has such an important history, has to move into the future through different points of view and different visions,” she said. “This is a collection but it’s also a conversation with artists about the representation of women, what it means to work in fashion today, and what cultural appropriation means today. It’s an intellectual reflection on fashion today.” 1)

If you read the articles online and hear Dior's designer Maria Grazia Chiuri explain it in the short video on Facebook, you honestly can't find any harm is this lady trying to re-invent fashion by embracing a more inclusive way of making it and collaborating with all sorts of artisans. But if we zoom in on what she chooses to embrace or use, questions starting to build up and I can't help but wonder what exactly is going on in this new Dior collection.
If Dior truly wanted to promote “African culture” and craftsmanship, there were plenty of textiles to choose from. Promoting actual local made textiles, not ‘green washing’ or ‘white washing’ textiles... or in Dior case, how should we call this? 'Africanity washing’, ‘appropriate washing’, ‘history washing’? I mean, why 'Wax Print'?
Dior wants to use their history and does that by basing their Wax Print on their Toile de Jouy design... I mean a motif based on a block-print design with exotic animals in a jungle setting, really? Are we just going to jump over the history of cotton and cotton-printing?
Creating your own textiles is great, and making a wax print, how cool. But this specific textile has such a complex history, which we are only just unravelling.
The researcher and auteur of Wax & Co/ African Wax Print Textiles Anne Grosfilley Dior invited to learn about Wax Print embraces it as a ‘global textile’.
Yes, this is great & true, but it is also, or even more so intertwined with colonial history.
It could be seen as a ‘colonial cloth’. So who are the French, in this case the fashion-brand Dior, to embrace this cloth as a ‘global textile’ and feel free to use it? Shouldn’t the fact that it is a ‘colonial cloth’ maybe weigh heavier in making the choice in who embraces it & why & how?
{Haven't read het book yet, it just got published in English, please comment below if you have and share your thoughts on it}

While reading up on articles published after the grand show in Marrakech Dior made to launch their new Summer collection 2020, I started following the comments on Twitter. The one showing the same video as what I first spotted on Facebook is getting mild comments, where the one with some tailor pictures is being flooded with remarks: "Get to discover more about one of the key through lines of the #DiorCruise 2020 collection: Wax print fabrics, the prestige cloth used for the collection!". The comments mostly go on about how they used 'African print', steal from Africa, and asking what Dior means with the term 'wax print'. People from Southeast Asia mostly comment 'This is Batik'.
What is going on here?
The name 'African Print' is maybe used widely, but Doir isn't incorrect in naming it 'Wax Print'. {They made this 'Wax Print' in collaboration with Uniwax, based in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), part of Vlisco based in Helmond (the Netherlands)}
Wax Print is the name for this technique and therefor these textiles are called 'Wax Print'. It' refers to machine printing of 'wax', which in this case is actually a kind of resin, onto cotton. 'Wax Print' started their history 200 years ago as an imitation batik. They had many names and different techniques that were used before the actual machines were invented by the Dutch. But they all had something in common, they were all made to ship to the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, to compete with actual Batik.
Batik is still being made! And not by machine but by hand! ,
Either with canting ''Batik Tulis, or with cap, Batik Cap. Batik has been the intangible heritage of Indonesia since 2009, but is still under pressure as a craft. The market is filled with printed textiles, cheap imitations and Batikmakers have a hard time getting a fair price for their products, more on that further on in this post.

My concern about all of this is not on who can use what and why, I think it has more to do with why Dior made this collection. What is their idea behind it?
is it because it is just fashionable now?
Or do they want to be part of the “cultural appropriation” discussion and truly in a positive way?
Do they want to make their product more inclusive or is it just copying of popular fashion of the African continent? 
Non of these things get really answered. The framing is vague and has all the right lingo. Yet the word 'Colonialism' is left out completely.
When using products that are linked to, intertwined with, miss-placed by 'Colonialism' or being re-examinded or being re-discovered by diaspora, people really should take a moment, maybe even more then a moment. Maybe it is just not the place nor the time to "do something with it" just yet, maybe other things need to happen first before you can use it as freely as you like.
Using Wax Print is one thing and many European brand already made that mistake/choice. Designing your own Wax Print is really something else and don't get me started on those "glass beads that originated in Venice"...

Why Wax Print is so complex, is being shown greatly and in depth in the 'Wax Print Film’. I recently had the opportunity of finally seeing it myself. Director Aiwan Obinyan was in the Netherlands shortly for another screening and I managed to set one up with the Guave ladies at their studio, our first collaboration, many to come, one soon {read at the end of this post}. In the 'Wax Print Film' Aiwan starts a quest finding out what 'African print' actually is. It led her to an amazing journey, over the world and far into history. 
I still feel so honoured being part of her journey and I think her journey about Wax Print is not finished yet. She has a lot of footage and if I see what is happening now, I think people should offer her a stage and make that stuff into a TV series! It would be so good to explore this in even more depth with even more voices!

Think before you act
Everyone knows it, no one uses it?!

This morning my day started with reading news from Malaysia.* The article 'Join the ‘Wear Malaysian batik’ revolution' not only lightens up the fire of the who has the claim to the heritage of {In 2009 Unesco declared Batik officially the intangible heritage of Indonesia, after Malaysia and Indonesia both wanted it as a national heritage}, but the minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture also states that they are going to promote Batik by encouraging young people to wear printed textiles, what? Wait? How?

"Although machine-printed batik might not be considered actual batik, which is handpainted, it is a start to reach out to the younger generation because it is cheaper and more accessible"

Promoting Printed Textiles can never result in promoting Batik. To promote Batik you should promote handmade Batik. It is that simple. If you promote printed textiles you just promote Fast Fashion! And therefor create an even more difficult position for the makers of the actual textiles... They already have to compete with these printed textiles, why make it even more difficult by promoting these textiles! Please don’t confuse a heritage with Fast Fashion! Promote Batik by actually wearing Batik. Invest in a new generation of Batik by wearing Actual Batik & making it possible for a new generation of Batikmakers to continue their legacy!

During the 61th Tong Tong Fair me together with Guave will be hosting 'The Batik Stand, A Stand For Batik'. From 23 May till 2 June you can find us on the Grand Pasar for everything about, on and with Batik. Come stand with us for Batik!

1) 'SPRING/SUMMER 2020 RESORT Christian Dior' on
2) 'Dior launches radical collection promoting local African print' on
3) 'Dior and the Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation' on

To read more on Wax Print:

* I wrote this Monday, but had no time to finetune until now. Meanwhile I had a discussion on the 'Batik print' promotion, were I was called a 'gatekeeper' and that this was the future...Even the claim was made that keeping the technique of Batik alive was not necessary and not sustainable...This breaks my heart & I want to say to all hard working Batikmakers (and all others that keep textile traditions alive) keep up the great work! Batik will never be replaced by some printed substitute, it didn't work in the 19th century, why would we let it happen now!
** I haven't shared images of the Dior collection, because I don't want to support their possible campaign strategy of getting free press through negative press

April 19, 2019

Busy with Batik

Entrance of the exhibition 'The journey to Batik - Day and Night' 
with first my painted 'Pagi-Sore' design from 2010
At Nieuwe Veste in Breda (NL)

Next to my design, the actual Batik, made by KUB Srikandi in 2012

Four new Pagi-Sore Batiks by Kub Srikandi, 2016 - 2018

This Sunday my blog is 10 years old! What a journey it has been, both for me and for Batik.
At first when I started my blog, it was my main way of sharing Batik; the stories, my discoveries, finds and maybe most of all my enthusiasm. The more I learned the more I wanted to know. I never thought that 10 years later I would still be busy with Batik.
And now, not just on my blog, or lately not at all on my blog at all, sorry for that, but in the real world I can share Batik. Last year and this year has been full with wonderful activities in which I could share my love for Batik in so many ways.
Last year, after a long struggle with my health {nothing new there} and reaching maybe the lowest point in my career confidence wise, a shift happend and great things came on my path. Still not all without cloudy days (mostly with clouds made out of greed & disrespect), but with very nice moments and all about Batik! The journey will not be all smooth sailing from here, but I am so happy that after almost 10 years, I finally can share my journey with so many on such different stages.

In October 2018 Cécile Verwaaijen reached out to me if I wanted to join an exhibition at De Nieuwe Veste about Batik. Different activities were being organised in Breda under the name 'Indische winter' {Indo-European Winter}. At the Stedelijk an exhibition was shown about the Indo-European influence on the Dutch popmusic.
During our first meeting I realised it was going to be a solo exhibition and that I was entirely free to fill it in however I wanted to.  I focussed in this exhibition on the phenomenon of 'Pagi-Sore Batiks'. These 'Day and Night Batiks' have a fascinating and tough history. It inspired me to make my own Batik-design in 2010 and I was a great opportunity to finally display the original painting with the Batiks made in 2012 by KUB Srikandi in Jeruk.
Next to my own design, I shared newer 'Pagi-Sore Batiks' also made by KUB Srikandi. Cécile had the great idea of hanging them in the space, so this colourful installation was formed in the heart of the exhibition.

Exhibition Text in Dutch written & designed by me

Batiks by Batikworkshop Gading Kencana 
and photo of Dwi Anggraeni during the 'Tari Batik' at that Batikworkshop in 2016

Batik & photos of batikmaker Nurul Maslahah made/ from 2016

Batik & photos of batikmaker Ibu Rasminah made/from 2016

Next to the Batiks, I shared the story of 'Pagi-Sore Batiks' in a hand-out, exhibition-text and a folder filled with prints from books about these cloths and the making-of my own 'Day and Night Batiks'.
My film 'The journey to Batik - Tari Batik' was shown on a screen and I shared all individual makers featured in it with photos and their own Batik.
The exhibition 'The journey to Batik - Day and Night' was opened on 16 December 2018. During the opening my film was projected in the 'Grote zaal'. I teamed up with Shuen-Li Spirit to give two Batikworkshops and I made a slide-show for the piano piece by Leopold Godowsky called the ‘Java Suite’ performed by Poitr van de Werff, teacher at Nieuwe Veste, during their New Year Concert.

The exhibition, and the collaboration with Cécile on making it, truly was a dream come true. It was so great to get this opportunity in my old hometown and it was so great how many people came. It was just amazing and the great Batik-flow started there hasn't yet slowed down.
It has been a bit quiet on my blog, for those who get my newsletter or follow my website, Instagram or Facebook have been kept better up to date on my activities. I will get it updated here, I promise, so much to share! Unfortunately I can't share everything yet. So what I am doing in all those archives has to be a secret still...
New news I can share however isssss that I am going to be part of this years Tong Tong Fair!!!
I am so exited to tell you that together with the lovely Guave ladies, Romée & Myrthe, we will be hosting 'The Batik Stand, A Stand For Batik'.
From 23 May till 2 June you can find us on the Grand Pasar for everything about, on and with Batik. More info soon on my website, but wanted to share it here first!
Last year, when I visited the Tong Tong Fair I was so sad not finding any Batik Tulis or Cap. And I was so disappointed that some stalls even sold 'Batik Print' as "Authentic", "Indonesian Textile"or "Traditional Batik". I posted about it on Facebook and an interesting & heated discussion started {You can read/see it in my Instagram highlighted stories 'Fake Batik''}. Some didn't get the problem or saw no harm in it, but for most the issue was real. Even Batikmakers from Java joined in! During the discussion the idea was introduced, by Jennifer of TheAiria Batik & Myrthe of Guave, to actually rent a stall & share real Batik within the Tong Tong Fair. Not against, but with the sharing, so we could share what real Batik is & why it is important to promote, support & buy it. Now one year later, we are actually doing it! Sooo great! So hope to see you there!

Thanks for visiting my exhibition  'The journey to Batik - Day and Night'

For more about the exhibition 'The journey to Batik - Day and Night':

- See 'News' on my website

- Watch the interview with Kees van Meel for his ‘Kijk in Kunst’ program for BredaNu {in Dutch}

December 18, 2018

Slowfashion x Batik by Guave

Opening of my exhibition 'De reis naar batik - Dag en nacht' 
wearing custom made reversible kimono jacket by Guave
Photo by Shuen-Li Spirit

The ladies of Guave started their slow fashion brand in 2017. Myrthe and Romée contacted me and we met in the Botanical garden in Leiden (NL). We talked about Batik; how printed textiles with batik motif wasn't what they wanted and actual Batik was want they needed. We kept in touch and I followed the fashion-steps they made.

The lovely ladies of @helloguave launched their new Summer collection a few weeks back💙They asked me to be make a Batik Statement Photobooth during their launch💙Made an Indigo inspired backdrop using a Vlisco Wax Print & Batik tulis from Jeruk to match with their collection💙 Congrats ladies with your beautiful new collection💙 ————————— #Repost @helloguave with @get_repost ・・・ Happy faces at the launch of our summercollection! 😄 Standing in front of the batik statement backdrop by batik expert and friend @sabinebolk! One of our missions is to keep this beautiful art and cultural heritage alive, by turning it into modern, wearable pieces 💙 More images of the new collection soon! • • • • #helloguave #madetolast #slowfashion #handcrafted #madewithlove #summercollection #indonesiantextiles #expressyouridentity #textiledesign #identities #batikfashion #identitystorytelling #textilehistory #batikcap #comingsoon #fairfashion #batikeverywhere #batikstatement #guave #sustainable #sustainablefashion #launch #launchparty #indigo #batik #fashion #batikstatementphotobooth
A post shared by Sabine Bolk (@sabinebolk) on

Me wearing the reversible Guave skirt
photo by Koen de Wit

When they launched their Summer collection in May this year, they invited me to do a pop-up Batik Statement photo booth. The collection made with blue and white Batik cap and pink recycled textile from Enschede was an instant favourite of mine. Their pattern-pattern-pattern photoshoot for the collection was beautiful and I believe the collection is almost sold out. 
I order one of the reversible skirts and asked if they could make me also a custom piece of a Batik from my own collection. I had this lovely Batik Tulis by Gading Kencana which I actually got in to re-sell.  I remembered seeing the ladies wearing wonderful kimono inspired jackets themselves, and asked if it was possible to get one.
Last Sunday I wore the jacket at the opening of my exhibition 'De reis naar batik - Dag en nacht' at Nieuwe Veste in Breda. I absolutely love it! The inside (or outside, depends on how you wear it) is made with a recycled, very soft, blueish grey textile of Enschede Textielstad. They kindly documented the making of, see the pictures below, enjoy!

Making of the kimono jacket

Cutting the pattern

Recycled textile by Enschede Textielstad

The ladies are ready for their next step, a new collection, made in their slow fashion principal, using Batik Cap with textiles by Enschede Textielstad. The collection is a limited edition twinset suit they want to produce at a makers-community in Amsterdam (NL). For this they launched a crowdfunding-campaign on Voordekunst

You can support them by ordering the twinset suit, or one of their other products. And best of all, this week (until Sunday 23 December 00.00h) what ever amount you donate gets doubled by VSB Fonds!! 

So go to Voordekunst &
 support the Guave ladies so they can make this next step in their fashionstory!

November 19, 2018

London Baby

With this recent visit to London, I noticed how my interests are interwoven with everything I do and how I am so much more aware of our history, and how it is interwoven with everything!
We had the great pleasure of spending some quality time with my lovely niece and artist Surya de Wit and her fiancé. Thanks for having us!
Of course I thought I planned nothing, but I fully planned everything, so our program was filled to the max, hehehe!
It was a wonderful visit and can't wait to go there again! Till next time London!

Day 1

In the Underground

Our first full day, after arriving the evening before, started with a visit to the Alfies Antique Market. If you haven't been, it is a real treat for the eyes {and great pie btw}! I finally got the chance to meet Duncan Clarke and see his wonderful collection of Adire African Textiles.
We wondered through the rooms, looking at all the blingbling, fabrics and vintage, and seeing the tiniest cutest dog in the world, after continuing our day at the British Museum.

Blingbling at Alfies Antique Market

Adire African Textiles at Alfies Antique Market

Museum Street across the British Museum

British Museum is big, busy and filled with so much high quality things. We chose to see the Mummies, Textiles & pretty things from Japan. Maybe an odd choice or just the perfect combination, who can tell? However, you can not stop wondering how these things ended up here and how this amount of things present a peculiar history... They don't go much into detail in the museum, and maybe understandably so. Similar like the Rijksmuseum; playing it safe or just presenting the bare minimum {The BBC series 'Civilisations' gives some amazing insights on this collection}.
In the African part of the museum there was a lot of room for textiles, rows and rows of them. And I loved there was so much on Kanga's! Next to a big display, a video was playing explaining how Kanga's travelled from India, to East Africa, to Spain, and other European countries. I know only a little about the history of Kanga, but it seems like an intertwined one, just as the history of Wax Prints, I would love to learn more about it in the near future.
Highlight of the day for me were definitely the three Batiks in the small display about Australia. After learning about the Batiks by Emily Kame Kngwarreye and her Utopia Batik group, I am fascinated by it. These Batiks are from another group of Aboriginal women at the Ernabella Arts in Pukatja in South Australia. I love how they use the Javanese Batik technique to create their own unique style in motifs and colours! Would love to make a journey to Batik down under!

Batiks from Australia on display at The British Museum

Kanga's from East Africa on display at the British Museum

After the British Museum, we went to Liberty. After finding a small sampler-booklet of 'Liberty & CO, East India House' in the travel-journal of a cotton-printers son from 1884, I just needed to learn more about it.
Liberty is kinda the "Oilily of England". Only one big difference; Oilily got their inspiration from Dutch traditional wear and therefor from Indian Chintz, in 1963. Liberty was actually selling Chintz and imitations of Chintz from 1875!!!

Arthur Lasenby Liberty was born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, in 1843. He was employed by Messrs Farmer and Rogers in Regent Street in 1862, the year of the International Exhibition. By 1874, inspired by his 10 years of service, he decided to start a business of his own, which he did the next year.
With a £2,000 loan from his future father-in-law, he accepted the lease of half a shop at 218a Regent Street with three staff members.

The shop opened during 1875 selling ornaments, fabric and objets d'art from Japan and the East. Within eighteen months, he had repaid the loan and acquired the second half of 218 Regent Street. As the business grew, neighbouring properties were bought and added.[2]

In 1884, he introduced the costume department, directed by Edward William Godwin (1833–86), a distinguished architect and a founding member of the Costume Society. He and Arthur Liberty created in-house apparel to challenge the fashions of Paris.

In 1885, 142–144 Regent Street was acquired and housed the ever-increasing demand for carpets and furniture. The basement was named the Eastern Bazaar, and it was the vending place for what was described as "decorative furnishing objects". He named the property Chesham House, after the place in which he grew up. The store became the most fashionable place to shop in London, and Liberty fabrics were used for both clothing and furnishings. Some of its clientele were exotic,[clarification needed] and included famous Pre-Raphaelite artists.

In November 1885, Liberty brought forty-two villagers from India to stage a living village of Indian artisans. Liberty's specialised in Oriental goods, in particular imported Indian silks, and the aim of the display was to generate both publicity and sales for the store.

During the 1890s, Liberty built strong relationships with many English designers. Many of these designers, including Archibald Knox, practised the artistic styles known as Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, and Liberty helped develop Art Nouveau through his encouragement of such designers. The company became associated with this new style, to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as the Stile Liberty, after the London shop.
- Wikipedia on 19th November 2018

The Department store of Liberty is still very much there, in the center of London. It is an amazingly weird building with Timber framing. Inside are impressive wooden ornaments, glazed tiles, paintings on the ceilings and piles of textiles. It was for me so interesting to see, this relic of Colonial times, very much alive and well in downtown London. At the same time, how many shoppers actually know about this history? 

Liberty Department Store

Liberty fabrics inside of the Liberty Department Store 

Above the entrance of the Liberty Department Store

Inside the Liberty Department Store

Inside the Liberty Department Store

Last stop for the first day, was the Open Studio at the V&A of the new artist in residence, Bridget Harvey! It was so great to actually be able to visit her and get an introduction on her amazing project. She will be looking at the V&A collection from a 'mending-point-of-view' and create new work from that the next upcoming 8 months. How lucky she is, and how deserved! Looking forward seeing what she makes, creates and repairs!

Introduction on Bridget Harvey's residency at the V&A

Day 2

The Second Day was all about the exhibition 'Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up' at the V&A. I am preparing a post about it for Modemuze, so more on that in the near future!
It was so good and I was so happy I could see it! I felt so lucky and so close to her. They made it so well, great job!
After the exhibition we were all so filled up with emotions and images, we just eat and sit and talked. We continued a little later and enjoyed the V&A some more. I believe you can go 3 days to the V&A and don't get bored. Or at least thats how I feel about it. I wish I could go there more often!

Lunchroom at the V&A designed by Arts and Crafts movement leader William Morris (1834-1896)

Indian textiles at the V&A

Day 3

The last full day was a mixture of muscle ache of dancing the whole night before and enjoying some more Art. We made a quick visit to Surya's Studio while enjoying the lovely Walthamstow neighbourhood. What a pretty part of London, no wonder William Morris got so much inspiration from it and how great that Surya's lives there!
Of course we needed to go to the William Morris Gallery also. This time it was the dot on the i. It is so interesting to see how William Morris is in the middle of this interwoven history and he was definitly in the center of this trip. He designed for Liberty & Co, he designed parts of the V&A interior, his was fascinated by Indian and Japanese Textiles and Art, by Medieval Tapestries and he loved Crafts. It was so great to spend the Sunday at this wonderful place, his Childhood home!

Shop with Wax Prints

Surya's work at her studio

William Morris Gallery

Waterlilies by Monet at the William Morris Gallery

At the William Morris Gallery

Detail of textile design by William Morris
at the William Morris Gallery

Sketch for a wall paper design
at the William Morris Gallery

Detail of textile design by William Morris
at the William Morris Gallery

Garden of the William Morris Gallery