November 25, 2016


Stasiun Tugu in Yogya

On the ferry to Madura

This passed week, 10 till 19 November, was about friends. Making new friends, visiting old friends and missing friends. Times are tough and I hope this post will offer some distraction. 
I'm writing this in the train from Jember to Yogya on Saturday the 19th of November after seeing my dear friend Denny again after 7 years. But first let me share "my trip" that was indeed "my adventure".
My visit to Madura was a seed planted many years ago. In 2009 I had a nice conversation with my hotel neighbor. It was on the my last days of my first journey and she told I should visit Madura next time.
About two years later Rusmilawati was studying in Leiden so we met again. She invited me to visit Madura again if I went to Indonesia. Preparing for this second journey, I of course contacted her.
Wien, as her friends call her, is now doing her PhD in Solo and is a lecturer at the University. 
On the beginning of my journey I met her in Solo at the Payung Festival (see blog post 'Yogya & Solo').
Our journey to Madura started on Thursday 10 November early morning by train to Surabaya. From there we would take the ferry.

Already in the train I noticed the landscape changing with more open spaces and hard working people. In Surabaya we got picked up by old students of Wien, now lawyers. We had lunch at, I think, a famous place 'Bu Rudy' and I was enjoying seeing a bit from this city from the car.
At the port we ran to catch the ferry, but missed it. Well we could have jumped for it, but I rather missed it this way.
Waiting for the ferry, I already spotted some nice traditional Madura Batiks being worn by the sellers of soda & snacks. 
On the ferry I felt so excited, I don't know what it is about going to islands, but it is such a great feeling of adventure. Of course Java is an island too and Madura is really, really big, but still.

It was the Lampion Festival that weekend, so the port was decorated with beautiful lanterns. Wien's father picked us up in his mini-van and I felt like entering a different world. I can't explain exactly what makes it so different, but don't believe the blablabla on Java.
Everything looks really pretty. All the public green in the more city area's are managed with real care. Amazing for this weather, I can not keep my garden so neath and we have like no Summer! We passed houses with bright colours and fields with trees very different from Java. I liked Madura instantly.

Made of bottles and plastic spoons

Peacock made of a tire & cd's

The next day I went with Wien to her campus. The highest building on Madura is on the campus of the university. How smart are these people! The world can learn something from this!
In the afternoon we headed towards to Lampion Festival. Unfortunately there was no program yet and rain started soon after our arrival. We walk around looking at the lanterns till the heavy rain made us look for shelter. One of Wien's friends just arrived when the rain start pouring down. It was strange and fun at once. The rain turned the festival terrain into a river, so the program for the evening got cancelled. When the rain didn't get less, Wien's brother kindly picked us up, saving us from a very wet motorcycle ride.


"Strawberry" design

Batik Tulis design should be two sided drawn with wax

On Saturday the friends with whom we hide from the rain, joined us in our journey to Batik. Because I don't know much about Batik from Madura I was very happy we got someone who arranged a meet with a Batik seller and maker. We headed towards Tanjung Bumi. A bumpy ride, but with great views over land and sea.
We first went to the Batik seller. To my surprise the Batiks were only draw on on one side. So only the front had a clear design. But I was pretty sure it is was not printed. I didn't know if this was something typical for Madura Batik or that there was something wrong, but I learned I should trust my knowledge about Batik more if I feel it is not right. I picked out some pieces with a more visible design on the back and asked for the prices. I thought they were a bit high for one sided Batik Tulis and I saw her quickly removing a price sticker of one of the Batiks I opened. I couldn't figure what was going on. We went to meet one of "her batikmakers. The batikmaker was a kind women, but I saw non of the batiks the seller sold back in her handwriting. She showed some finished pieces of which one had some elements I saw before. I had the feeling she was not the maker. 
I liked one design very much at the seller, a modern one with a motif of "strawberries", so I asked if she was the maker. I got from her a surprised face and later Wien told me the seller was urging us to go when I start asking more questions.
Back at the home of the seller, I did bought some of the neater made pieces batiks. I let her know before that I thought the prices were a bit high and she ended up raising them even more...
Feeling a bit distressed, our guide said softly when we were back in the van, yes its true, she raised the prices. At that point I  was just hoping I didn't buy fake batiks...
After seeing a new, yet still magical and my first mangrove ever, Wien showed the bought Batiks to a neighbor, her mother and brother. They actually said I made good chooses. They had no explanation about the back of the pieces, but said the process of the Batik was "unfinished". There is a slow, long process on Madura of keeping the batiks in clay to make the colours different and the fabric more soft. These batiks had some treatment, they have a kind of shimmery, but not the whole process was completed.
My own theory now about this seller is that she sells mistakes. So Batiks she can buy for a lower price because something in the process went wrong. I still think and hope it is actual Batik Tulis.

The actual "Strawberries" are I think a classic design based on a cactus fruit that is eaten on Madura

Batik at Tresna Art

Traditional breakfast in the garden of Tresna Art

On Sunday we went to another Batik place. A shop in Bangkalan of which I had no expectations being familiar with Batik shops in Yogyakarta. But Tresna Art is truly something else. In a beautiful building with batik makers at the entrance and all shorts of Maduran traditional things, I saw the true Madura batiks. Really detailed, very fine and very expensive. I regretted I spend my money already somewhere else...
Because it was Sunday there was even free traditional breakfast in the garden. The garden was wauw! With traditional buildings, bonsai's, cactuses and exotic birds. After the breakfast and lunch we were asked if we wanted to see the batikmaking. But of course!

Ibu Sofi

Ibu Sutyah

One of the batik makers stopped when we were watching and I wondered why. I asked some questions about the motifs and realized this pembatik had only one arm. Ibu Sofi told she started making batik from the age 10. We asked if she wanted to show us. Her work is really detailed and it is empowering she created this with only one hand. She uses her knee to put the fabric on. Normally the other hands guides the textile and keeps some distance between the hot wax and the skin. So a tough lady who makes the finest art!
The pembatik next to her, Ibu Sutyah, started asking Wien why I was on Madura, probably noticing my interest in Batik. She got really angry, or at least thats what Maduran sounds like to me, when Wien told her about our experience the day before. Apparently the seller we met is know for her too high prices and she said: Why you didn't come here first? She explained that the owner of Tresna Art is a true supporter of Batik and other traditions. She is fair to the batik makers and helps preserving the technique of the clay and other important things for Madura Batik. I was told people from Madura are known for their direct character and I believe she was not saying these things just to please the boss.
She said that next time I visit Madura, I first come to Tresna Art and she will be my guide to her village. A village were most people make Batik. She said "They are true and honest people and will show you the Art of Batik of Madura." I can't wait!!

Thank you Rusmilawati for inviting me to your wonderful home on this beautiful island. I hope I can explore more of Madura and its fascinating Batik culture in the future. Wonderful to meet your family and friends and so funny we are now on the same train!!

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