October 8, 2018

The journey to Batik - Research Process

How did the story go of Batik Entrepreneur Carolina Josephina von Franquemont? These passed 21 months I found and discovered a lot, and I am working on the next step, a third journey to Batik. In this Time lapse I recreated my research process. With a voice-over in Dutch, I explain why I started this research and where I am now. With subtitles you can read my explanation in Dutch & English. Below you'll find a time-line for every time I show something in the frame; a book, article or textile

0:30 Daan van Dartels article ‘Koloniale mode: wederzijdse invloeden in Indo-Europese batik’ on Modemuze 

0:33 Book ‘Batik Belanda’ by Harmen Veldhuisen  

0:34 Book ‘Fabric of Enchantment, Batik from the North Coast of Java’ 

0:36 My article ‘Verzwolgen en verdwenen: de batik erfenis van Franquemont’ on Modemuze in May 2017, English 'What happened to Von Franquemont'  

0:44 Pagi-sore, Day and Night, Batik design by me, made in Desa Jeruk in 2011 

1:12 Article ‘Batik ‘Tiga Negeri’ & de Java Print ‘Good Living’ on Modemuze, in English 'Good Life II'

1:14 Book ‘Javanese Batik to the world’ by Maria Wronska-Friend 

1:16 Souvenir-cloth (‘Herinneringsdoek’) to celebrate Keti Koti with Javanese Kraton ‘Princely Lands’ style (‘Vorstenlanden’) Batik motifs  

01:17 My film ‘The journey to Batik - Tari Batik’ premiered in September 2017  

1:51 Magazine Aziatisch Kunst of Asian Art Society (‘Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst’), Jaargang 47, Nr. 3, November 2017  

1:52 Book ‘Indonesian Textiles’ by Itie van Hout, Collection Tropenmuseum 

1:54 Book ‘Batik & Ikat aus Indonesien’ by B. Forman  

1:56 Community Dressing Episode 3 ‘Bunschoten-Spakenburg’ with a contribution by me  

2:26 Book ‘Collectors Collected’ by Daan van Dartel  

2:27 Book ‘Technische innovaties in de katoendrukkerij en -ververij in Nederland 1835-1920’ by G.P.J. Verbong  

2:28 Book ‘Feministische Openbaarheid, De Nationale Tentoonstelling van Vrouwenarbeid in 1898’ by Maria Grever and Berteke Waaldijk  

2:29 Magazine Métier with an article on my work and research, edition 3, September 2018

October 1, 2018

What Batik Statement are you making?

Wearing Batik-mask (loan from Sandra Niessen), 
jacket made from Batik Cirebon by Kamaratih Batik 
& Batik legging by Baobab Batik from Swaziland

Today we celebrate the ninth year that Batik is the official UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Indonesia. Since 2 October 2009 every year it is Hari Batik, Batik Day, today and since 6 years I have the tradition to share a series of Batik Statements on this day. {I posted this at 19 p.m. European Time, so in Indonesia its 12 a.m.}
The first series was in 2012 and it was dedicated to the fact that Batik wasn't considered to be a fashionable thing. I thought Batik should & could be worn like that. Only 6 years later and I am exclusively wearing outfits made from Batik for this years series. Batik truly became the fashion item it should be!

This year I would like to explain what statements you can make with Batik. 
The fabric itself tells a story through its motif. So for choosing the right Batik to wear it is nice to know what the patterns mean. You can find some populair motifs explained in my Batik Statements series Pattern Edition.
I wear a lot of 'Batik Modern', Batik with a less traditional motif or in a different colour combination, so I can make my own statement with it. It is also handy to wear 'Batik Modern' to avoid mis-interpreting the meaning and rocking an inappropriate pattern to the wrong party. 
But making statements with Batik is not only done by the fabric itself, it is also done by how you wear it, or in what form. 
In these statements I am wearing three custom-made pieces; a jacket, dress and skirt. The fun thing about custom-made is that you can choose your Batik and make it fit perfectly. Since my second 'Journey to Batik', I have added 6 custom-made pieces to my wardrobe and a seventh is in the making. It is the perfect way for me to wear what I love and show off how it can be worn in a fashionable, colourful, fun and stylish way. So You can also make a custom-made statement with your Batik!
The last statement I would like to make, is the sustainable one. Batik is a handmade textile, either hand drawn with canting or brush or hand stamped with cap or block printing. This doesn't automatically make it a sustainable produced product, but it is a unique, high quality handmade textile. Different batik makers have different methods, so finding out which ones are fair, green, eco etcetera is a puzzle. But Batik it is always a better choice then a machine made fast fashion product. To find out more about 'Is Batik Fair?' please read the blogpost I wrote about it. 

Thinking about making this years Batik Statements, I thought of the graffiti I spot regularly during my walks in Utrecht (NL). The pieces change rapidly, covering one another to make their mark, to make their statement. With a name, a symbol, or tag, readable and not so much, walls are filled. I love walking past these temporary outside exhibitions and thought they make a nice photo-shoot setting. So I am sharing with this years Batik Day Celebration how we can make statements in different ways and I hope you share yours with me!

On Instagram & Facebook please use the hashtag #batikstatement and don't forgot to tag me! Or send by email to sabine{@}sabinebolk.nl. Please share why you choose this Batik and what statement you would like to make!

Wearing dress made with Batik Lasem, designed with TheAria Batik 
{I am the reseller in the Netherlands} 
and Baobab Batik leggings 

Wearing reversible skirt by Guave
made with Batik Cap on one side, 
and recycled & organic textile from Enschede on the other side

June 23, 2018

Ecological, Sustainable & Colonial Footprint

Huge mens blouse made of discarded mens blouses, apparently one of the most discarded items of clothing, by Marlene Haase at Fashion Colloquium, 2018

'Tower of Babel' by Kasper Jongejan at FashionClash

For those who follow me on other Social Media, know I'm researching a lot at the moment. In the form of actual archival research, going through page after page of handwritten documents. Research in the form of going to lectures, symposium and events. About textiles, Indonesian culture, Colonial history and Fashion. From the outside maybe it doesn't look that connected, but to my surprise, the more I see the more connections I can make.

I think about and try to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. I make temporary artworks. I try to shop as much plastic free and organic as possible. I eat no meat, travel by train and try to buy less or secondhand stuff. I try to look at my wardrobe in this same way. I've never been a Fashion victim and always loved buying secondhand 'vintage'. Yet thinking about ones Ecological or Sustainable footprint should include what you wear. During my last visits to Java I had some clothing custom-made out of Batik Tulis. I wear these items so much that I need new "professional outfits". So I asked Guave to make wonderful Slow Fashion pieces for me. Their Summer collection was launched recently and it's such a wonderful combination of Batik Cap from Java (Indonesia) with woven textiles from Enschede (NL)! I asked them to document 'the making of', so that will be on my blog later!

In Fashion the subject Sustainability is now a very populair, almost trend-like, theme. For collections, exhibitions, symposiums and pop-up shops. And many of the Fashion things I've been to, had that same theme going on.
For example The Fashion Colloquium, a two day symposium Searching for the New Luxury; explored new definitions of ‘luxury’ against the backdrop of urgent environmental and social issues. Fashion is in dire need of more value-based critical thinking as well as design-driven research to thoroughly explore, disrupt, redefine and transform the system. I only attended on Thursday 31st of May, but was really inspired by it.
Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution shared their growing reach, yet spoke the strong words that kept ringing in my ears “The noise can be louder”. We must be louder, we need to change now or "ASAP; As Sustainable As Possible" as Oskar Metsavaht of the ASAP brand puts it. Pascale Gatzen, the new head of the Fashion Design Master’s programme at ArtEZ, talked about changing the way we talk & think, making our vocabulary fitting with a less growth-minded, negative system in order to create positive change within the Fashion industry.

Opening of the Fashion Colloquium with 'The new Luxury' Manifesto

'Repairing our clothing is a revolutionary act' 
Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution during the Fashion Colloquium 

Last week I went to FashionClash in Maastricht. I wrote an article for them fitting with this years theme 'Fashion my religion'. It was already their tenth edition and don't know how I missed it till now. It is the perfect combination of enjoying the city, seeing shops you normally wouldn't find that easy and getting showered with Fashion & Art. My favourite work was by Kasper Jongejan. His version of the 'Tower of Babel' consisted of a pile of discarded textiles from a sorting company with on top a collection of clothing made from rejected fabrics. The hearts on it were to remind us we still “like” new things better then taking responsibility for the mess we make. Another strong advocate that we have to stop with Fast Fashion and go for more sustainable choices.

This week I spent some days researching at the University Leiden. In their wonderful Special Collections library I'm going through texts written and collected by G.P. Rouffaer (1860-1928). He was one of the first Dutch Batik experts and wrote a big book 'De Batik-kunst' that got published in 1914.
I was going through handwritten documents about imitation-batiks, Batik Cap and other printed cotton on the Dutch East Indies market around 1870. The text was about how low the quality was of the imitation-batiks compared to what was already on the market. Not only compared to the much more detailed handwritten Batik Tulis, but even compared with the fast growing Batik Cap, Wax stamped printed cottons, on the Javense market. It went on about how much printed textiles were being sold, huge quantities of thousands and thousands of pieces. And even though the quality of the imitation-batiks was questioned, still the main reason for this correspondence was the money they thought they could be making by importing more of these cheaper, imitations to Indonesia.
So reading this, I was thinking about all the things I have been to these last few months. During the Fashion events, the discussion on Fast Fashion, but also on Cultural appropriation. But also the talks, meetings and events about our Colonial past I have been attending these last few months. Here the questions are raised, how do we teach people about Colonial history and how do we deal with postcolonial realities; a world shaped by this past?
The event at the Museum Volkenkunde about our 'peppered past' was about how people with connections to the Dutch East Indies have different stories to tell then other groups that are seen as 'foreigners' here, yet they still face the same negative hurdles. Another returning subject is how we show objects from this past in an appropriate, correct, full story-telling way in which all parties feel comfortable and respected. Subjects which are very interesting to think about and to hear more of, but are not heard by the group who needs to change the most...

Two weeks ago I got interviewed for the film Wax Print: 1 Fabric, 4 Continents, 200 Years of History. The film is about the role that ‘Ankara’ - a vibrant cotton fabric print typically associated with Africa - plays in the world economy and the fashion industry today.  The film will be premiere next week, more screening dates coming up so check their website regularly.
I shared my thoughts on Batik, imitation-Batik and of course Wax Print. Me and director Aiwan Obinyan talked about so much more when she was here. It made me realise how much work still needs to be done before the subjects mentioned above are not just subjects, but actually things we work on, with and passed.

I started realising that all is connected. Our Fast Fashion problems and ignoring Colonial History. From how the system of Fast Fashion has its start in our Colonial past, the products used to make the actual clothing, the demand and the claim. The trade routes on which products and people, willingly and unwillingly, were moved on across the world for centuries. Money was made and people were being exploited. It seems it doesn't differ so much from what is happing today in Fashion and other industries.
We can't keep on pretending the past didn't happen and keep ignoring what is happing now. We can learn from our past.
I think next to working on my Ecological and Sustainable footprint, I need to work on my Colonial footprint; What is it, what is made of, and what does it mean for me and others?
History repeats itself and so forth, but lets just break the cycle!

To follow in my footsteps ;), check out these {upcoming} events:

Till 24 June We Make M-ODE in Amsterdam

Till 22 July you can visit 'State of Fashion: Searching for the new luxury'

Till 2 September ModeMuze@OBA: Innovation

May 28, 2018

Wastra Weekend, First Edition Recap

First photo in the Batik Statement Photo Booth with 
Lara of Laras Bags, Sabine (me), Romée & Myrthe of Guave, 
Marlisa of Taman Indonesia and right Gandamira. 
For all Wastra Weekend-Batik Statements click here

On 24 & 25 February 2018 me & Marlisa Wareman organised our first Wastra Weekend. We were already talking and thinking many years about how we could share our love for Indonesian textiles, and Batik in particular. When last year the tropical greenhouse opened at Animal park Taman Indonesia, of which Marlisa is the owner, the perfect place was created to organise an event all about Indonesian textiles, no matter what the weather would be like. 

Me & Marlisa with the Batik I selected from her 
during my second journey to Batik in 2016

For our first Wastra Weekend we choose the not so busy February month. This edition we made a little cinema to show my short film 'The journey to Batik- Tari Batik' with 3 other textile-films; the documentary 'Batik, our love story' from 2012 by Nia Dinata, 'Rangsa Ni Tonun' about Batak textiles by Sandra Niessen & MJA Nashir and 'Ingkerr anyent-antey' about Utopia Batik from Australia. In the greenhouse we made 3 exhibitions, one of my Batik collection, one of Marlisa's collection of Mentawai & Papua accessories and one of clothing from almost every Indonesian Island. 

The exhibition of my Batiks started with this one by Ibu Maryati 
which has also an leading role in my film

Mentawai and Papua Bags 

View from upstairs 

My Pagi-Sore Batik next to the rice in the greenhouse

Batik with 'Ghosts & Coffee' design by Mak Si'Um from Batang

Overview of my collection

On every Batik piece were photos of the makers and the creation process, 
on this Batik the actual canting and dying of this cloth

It was amazing to use the tropical greenhouse as an exhibition space and to finally show off the beautiful Batiks I have been collecting since 2009. I also, for the first time, showed the Pagi-sore Batik made after my design. 
During the weekend I gave tours through the exhibition sharing more about the Batiks on display; where they were from, who made them and some interesting details about them. It was also wonderful that my film was being shown throughout the day, so people could see most of the actual makers of the Batiks and the their Batiks on the same day!

Guided tour through my collection by me

Wastra Consultation Table 
for questions on your own brought textiles or to learn more about Batik

Next to the tours, I had a Wastra Consultation Table ("Wastra Spreekuur") were people could come with their own textiles for more information, browse through books, learn about natural dyes and other materials used to make Batiks and of course ask questions. Five people actually brought some textiles with them, Ikat & Batiks, and I got many questions. It was fun to have this spot, because people also came to me with questions on the films they just saw or after the tour I had given. 
My Wastra Consultation was in the other part of the greenhouse which we named the Batik square ("Batikplein") for this weekend. On the Batik square we made a Pasar, market, were people could shop all kind of amazing items made from Indonesian textiles. We had a stall by Lara with her Laras Bags made from Ikat from Flores and Batik from Java, Guave with their sustainable brand using also Batik from Java. Gandamira sold all kinds of batik-things on Saturday and Made by Ayo shared her natural dye Batik bags & clutches on Sunday. From all of them you can still get some items at the toko of Taman Indonesia!

Laras Bags



We had such fun and a great turn-out! 
Thanks for everyone who came to this first edition 
and hope to see you back again at our second edition!

Our Second Wastra Weekend will be held on 23 & 24 February 2019 at Animal park Taman Indonesia, Kallenkote, so hope to see you there!

For more on the first edition:

See the Batik Statements visitors made in this Facebook album

Read Lara's review on Indoness.nl (in Dutch)

May 22, 2018

Arabic Calligraphy in Dutch traditional wear

Summer apron from former Dutch island Marken
Dated 1920-1940
collection Textile Research Center

Searching for some examples of Calligraphy Batiks, I came across this piece in the online collection of the Textile Research Center. A Summer apron from former Dutch island Marken, in Dutch "zomerboezeltje", made from what appeared to be Calligraphy Batik. What a remarkable combination! So when Modemuze asked me to write an article for their FashionClash Festival collaboration blogpost-series, this apron seemed to be the perfect match, or clash, to write about. [1].

Calligraphy Batik

Batik is a resist dyeing techniek in which hot wax is used to create patterns on fabric. Calligraphy Batik, or Besurek Batik, is a style or type of Batik within the Indonesian tradition. These Batiks, often blue with white patterns, are full of signs recognizable as Arabic or Islamic Calligraphy. They were made on Java (in cities like Cirebon and Demak) and intended for the Sumatran market.[2] On Sumatra Islam was introduced in the 11th century. The style of the calligraphy used on Besurek Batik looks a lot like calligraphy from the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), now Turkey, and it is plausible that the texts on Calligraphy Batiks were copied from these kinds of handwritten calligraphy.

Calligraphy Batiks are seen as talismans and give protection to the wearer. In most museum collections you'll find Besurek Batiks in the size of a headscarf.[3] These headscarfs were probably worn during prayers and rituals. There are also Calligraphy Batiks known in other sizes like sarongs, banners or even jackets with on it the soerat al-ihklaas – a verse from the Koran which would give the wearer protection.[4] Besurek Batik in sarong size weren't meant to be worn as such, they were used as shrouds or to wrap around important things like a Koran.

Styled texts

On old Besurek Batiks the texts are readable or recognizable as the Arabic saying Bismillah or as other prayers. Sometimes texts are styled into the shape of an animal or flower. A lion stands for Ali, a bird for Allah and Mohammed is depicted as a horse.[5] This form of zoomorphic calligraphy or zoomorphism is a way of depicting live animals without them being directly recognizable as such. The Koran disallows idolisation: within the Islamic Art its quite common to not depict humans or animals.[6]

Christian grapes and Arabic Batik motifs 

Back to the apron from the Textile Research Centre (TRC) collection, because: How does Arabic Calligraphy end up on an apron worn as part of the traditional wear on Marken?

The apron, called 'boezel' in Dutch, is a typical example of wear commonly used on former island Marken before the Second World War. [7] Children had within this traditional wear their own 'fashion'. Boys would wear girls clothing, including this type of apron as long as they "went in the skirt" (“in de rokkies gingen” in Dutch)[8]

Between the age 5 and 7 boys started wearing pants. The age depends on achieved nighttime dryness of the children. Girls would wear red and white chequered aprons, while boys would wear dark blue aprons with a white pattern. The 'boezels' of the boys in museum collections often have a bunch of grapes om them. I found this motif also on other clothing items from Marken and even as curtains for a bedstead.


A bunch of grapes has many meanings, among them fertility, but in this case it is more likely to be linked to Christianity. A bunch of grapes can be a symbol of the Last Supper and the blood of Christ, similar to the sacramental wine.

The population of Marken is mainly Protestant and this is expressed through their traditional wear in different ways. Not only the grapes, also in other parts of their clothing: they change it on Sunday and to go to church, for different celebrations or stages of mourning.
Between Pentecost (May-June) and St. Martin's Day (11 November) the Summer apron is being worn. These blue with white aprons for boys are in all kinds of grape-motifs. Later it seems all kinds of blue with white motif fabrics were welcome to be turned into Summer aprons.[9]  I found one with a chequered motif, one with a very fine floral motif and a couple with Batik-like motifs [10] and of course the one with Arabic Calligraphy.

Starting left corner clockwise: 
apron with herons (TRC 2016.0448f); 
apron with Calligraphy Batik-motif (TRC 2009.0048); 
insides of sleeves (TRC 2010.0463a-b); 
apron with Vlisco-motif of Star of David (TRC 2016.0720)

Imitation and original 

I visited the TRC in Leiden to see the Calligraphy Batik-apron and other pieces from their collection. The TRC has an interesthing textile collection with all kinds of techniques and traditional wears. The requested items were sorted from the depot and were put neatly on a board covered with fabric. I was free to take photos and to touch them!

To my surprise the apron turned out not to be a Batik after all. It is an imitation Batik. Another apron I requested also turned out to be a imitation Batik. I recognized the motif of a Vlisco Wax Print I have at home. A Star of David is surrounded by leaves with a craquelé effect on the background.
So the Calligraphy Batik from the TRC is a copy of a copy of a copy: first handwritten writings or calligraphy from the Ottoman Empire, then an Indonesian Batik and then an imitation Batik or in other words Wax Print.

Detail of apron from the TRC collection
 (TRC 2016.0720)

When Batiks are copied to make a pattern for a Wax Print, the pattern changes a little and become less readable. In the case of the Calligraphy Batik it would have been interesting if it still was readable. And if I could link it to an actual text or prayer which would tell us more about the use within the Islamic belief. I also thought if I could trace it back to the original Batik on which this design was based, I could figure out when and how it got on Marken. I found an original Batik before on which Vlisco based a Wax Print, so I started searching.[11]

Kain panjang ‘batik tulis arab’
Dated 1900-1950
collection Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

I actually found the original Batik in an online catalog, image above. The pattern is clearly the same, even the mirrored calligraphy placed in a triangle. I assumed the mirroring was a printing error, or a design solution to make a repeating pattern, but it  is actually already in the original Batik.

I haven't gotten extra information yet on this Batik, I will definitely keep on searching. The story isn't told completely yet, but what a story it already is. This apron takes us on a journey from the Ottoman Empire, to Indonesian Sumatra, through the Vlisco factory in Helmond to the former island Marken.

Two religions onto one apron came together in an unusual way. Is it a clash or a match, who knows?

For more:

See the original post on Modemuze for more photos www.modemuze.nl

Check out the project ‘Fake Calligraphy’ by Ada van Hoorebeke and Maartje Fliervoet in collaboration with Manoeuvre in Gent (Belgium), show at WIELS in Brussel.

Read also previous blogpost ‘Where Batik Belongs’ on The journey to Batik about artist Ada van Hoorebeke

[1] This blogpost was written as part of the series 'Fashion My Religion!' in collaboration with FASHIONCLASH Festival
[2] Nowadays Besurek Batiks are made on Sumatra in Palembang and Jambi 
[3] Find more examples of Calligraphy Batiks in the collection of Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen en het Wereldmuseum with search words ‘Kalligrafie Batik’.
[4] More on the jacket online https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11840/169561. Believed is that this and other similar jackets were worn by warriors, or against the Dutch on Sumatra during the Aceh War (1873–1914), or when Indonesia became independent.
[5] Chapter 8 ‘Islamic talisman, the calligraphy batiks’ by Fiona Kerlogue in the book 'Batik, Drawn in Wax'.
[6] ‘Turn Of A Century’ on this blog with nice examples of Islamic influence on Batik. The heads of the people on the batik are turned into flowers.
[7] For more on the traditional wear of Marken, check out the second episode of Community Dressing on YouTube.
[8] From the book ‘Marken’ by Dr. P.J. Kostelijk and B. De Kock.
[9] Examples in the online collection of Modemuze with search word ‘boezel’.
[10] Apron, collection Zuiderzeemuseum, objectnr 021828. Apron for boy, collection Zuiderzeemuseum, objectnr 012284. Apron, collection Zuiderzeemuseum, objectnr 012285. Apron, collection Textile Research Centre, objectnr TRC 2016.0720.
[11] My previous Modemuze post ‘Batik ‘Tiga Negeri’ & de Java Print ‘Good Living’ in Dutch, on my blog 'Good Life II' in English.

With special thanks to Textile Research Center & artist Ada van Hoorebeke

April 21, 2018

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Pagi-Sore

Happy Hari Kartini! 
The 21st of April is a special day for me, not only because we celebrate this Javanese princess birthday, but also because I started my blog on this date 9 years ago. Nine years, I can't believe I'm blogging this long and can't believe I'm heading towards 10 years! 

Last year I started my Pattern Edition Batik Statement series and was planning to do more, but my health got in the way. The booklet I promised to be made is also on hold. I still want to make it, but I need some budget to do so. So please pre-order at sabine{@}sabinebolk.nl, so I can make it happen!! 
But let's not talk about what didn't happen, let's share what did!
Nine years of blogging and 6 years of Batik Statements, two actual journeys to Batik and the first Wastra Weekend together with Marlisa of animal park Taman Indonesia. I started blogging last year also for Modemuze and very happy I did so!  

Last Monday I went with my honey to the exhibition 'Van Gogh & Japan' at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I haven't been there in a long time. I had to see this exhibition, because his work inspired by Japan had a significant impact on me. I made a school project when I was 16 about Japanese woodblock printing and got interested in how it influenced Van Gogh's work. I have had this poster of his version of a Geisha for ever and it went with me from house to house. 
When I got reminded by Social Media about a work I made 7 years ago, I started thinking on what works I made inspired by Vincent and it turned out there were many
The last one was my design for a Pagi-Sore Batik. Batik representing Day and Night on one cloth. This way of designing a Batik was a clever way of incorporating two designs onto one cloth, so you could change your look during the day. I loved how it was also translated in the design by showing light and darkness, beginnings and endings, life and death. 
I designed the Batik in 2011, see 'Work in progress 'Difficult Time'. The idea behind it was to learn how a Batik design was made and how patterns change when made with actual canting. I was researching then, as I am now, Batik influenced by Indo-European entrepreneurs. I was curious to see what would happen if I designed a "European painting" and let this be made into a Javanese Batik. Would there be a miss-communication or re-interpretation of the patterns I drew?
I wanted to use Sunflowers, because of the obvious Van Gogh connection, but also because it is secretly such a global flower. I also wanted to include our way of seeing Europe, the Holidays to France with all the Sunflowers standing in rows pointing their heads towards the Sun. Next to that I wanted to incorporate growth, next to waiting; patience, next to strength. By repeating rows and rows of Sunflowers, growing & blooming, next to faded Sunflowers which feed garden birds through the winter months. 

After I made the painting, I traced it onto paper and send it to Pak William Kwan who would give it to the pembatiks of Jeruk. It was almost a year later that I got the first photos of the Batiks, two batiks made after my design! I believe they arrived by post even months after that. As many of my projects, they take time and I was happy to exhibit the Batiks for the first time at the beginning of this year at Taman Indonesia during our first Wastra Weekend (next Wastra Weekend 23 & 24 February 2019). Still haven't showed it together with the original painting, but I'm sure a perfect place will present itself over time.

Back to Monday. I thought it would be cool to pose with the Pagi-Sore Batik between the paintings at the Van Gogh museum. But being tackled by security didn't seem to be the best thing to do on a Monday, so Koen took a picture of me outside, after our visit. The picture this blogpost starts with. This photo inspired me to make a new Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Pagi-Sore.

I'm looking forward to the 10th year of my journey to Batik and wish to make a next actual journey to Batik (still only in wanting, not yet planned). 
So 9 years have passed of my quest, my exploration and research on Batik. The history and the future, the inspiration and the fashion, the heritage in other textiles like wax prints and how it is all connected through our (Dutch) colonial past. 
In what extra way would you, dear reader, like me to celebrate this 10th year of blogging? Please share your ideas and requests in the comments below! 
And which topics I should write about more? Let me know! 
My journey is made possible by your feedback, reads, shares, comments and motivation! So thank you, terima kasih and dankjewel! 

For more about my Batik design in the previous post 'Difficult Time'

For more on my work as an artist go to www.sabinebolk.nl

March 27, 2018

A quest through Wax - Meet Addoley Dzegede

'Happy Family' by Addoley Dzegede

It’s not every day you learn about interesting, inspiring, brave new Art and meet the artist shortly after that. And then find out you connect on so many levels. So time to introduce Addoley Dzegede to you.

Addoley’s Art has two general themes; Home, what feels like home, and hybrid identities, being two things at the same time, but also being none of these things. In both themes Addoley works with personal and more global inspired stories. Her works are little stories built up from a mixture of anecdotes, memories, facts and interviews. Appearance and prejudice are returning subjects. On one hand her work is an active search on her roots, her history and her view on this, at the same time it's about being confronted by others with questions and thoughts about where she is from, how she got her name and other personal things people feel free to ask. Or as she mentioned in our talk: Taking the history or materials of a place I lived or visited and merge it in with my personal history that I always carry with me because of the way I look.

'Everybody you know is here' Addoley Dzegede

I met Addoley online when she was making her interpretation of the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ for the installation ‘Everybody you know is here’. The installation shares the story about Addoley’s mother. She wanted to find out why she moved to Ghana. Her mother had not really ventured far from Cleveland before. She had been to some other cities and states, but never out of the country. So it was a big step to take as a young woman, to join the Peace Corps and move to Ghana. In the installation an interview with her mother interacts with more symbolic objects, like books she mentions and a Wax Print. Addoley wanted to include the Vlisco classic ‘Happy Family’ because of its meaning, as an object that shares a global heritage, but also because of what the pattern on the cloth tells. (Read more about that in my previous post  ‘The chicken and the egg’).
She wanted to buy a piece, but didn’t because she thought it to be too expensive at that time. She decided to make her own interpretation of ‘Happy Family’. She wanted it to look similar to an actual Wax Print, so silkscreen printing didn’t seem right. She decided to buy materials for Batik instead and started. Looking back it seems like a ridiculous plan, because it took her 3 months to make, but I’m happy she did!
When we met last Summer, I asked her to bring her ‘Happy Family’ and it is so good!
I can’t believe she made it without any experience. And I know what I’m talking about, it is such a hard technique and I love how she used and kept using it in her work. 

Addoley with her 'Happy Family' at Jansen, a Wax Print maker & seller in Helmond (NL)

Addoley work isn’t medium specific. For every project she looks for the medium that fits best. So often it involves learning new skills. She worked before with ceramics, silkscreen printing, video and made artist books. Recently she started using the technique Batik. 
It started first, as mentioned above, as a way of replacing or copying Wax Print, since it has its origin in Javanese Batik. (Read more on this in my previous post ‘Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks’) She likes using Wax Prints and Batik, because these materials have the same duality, the same hybrid identity as she has herself and which is expressed through her work.

‘Happy Family’ was my own take on it, it was inspired by it, but it is not an exact copy. Creating my own patterns with their own meaning. What intrigues me in Wax Prints is that they are not necessarily named in the factory. In different regions {in West Africa} people give them different names. So I’m doing my own process of naming and creating designs.

‘obama ọlọba’ by Addoley Dzegede

A wonderful and at the same time uneasy work by Addoley is ‘obama ọlọba’. An Indigo printed cloth, similar in lay-out and style as an Nigerian Adire cloth. It shows a portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama. Their portrait is surrounded by exotic looking symbols like pineapples, leaves and elephants, but also by stars, a statue-of-liberty looking torch and eagles. In capital letters is written: “On the 2nd fl of our house w/ lrg window behind us heard the official announcement obama is the 1st black president looked at each other yelled + immediately ducked suddenly felt people are watching us + we are a target hide!”. Addoley explained to me she made the cloth to explain something that is hard to talk about. “I use Art to say things I normally can’t say, not that I couldn’t say it, but I want to say it without saying it. The Indigo cloth is a short story on how I felt when Obama was elected. It was something I thought about a lot, and it was something me and my sister talked about. Our first reaction was fear. When he won we thought something bad would happen to us. Or to him. So it's that type of thing you don’t really talk about. It was something that constantly follows me, so I end up putting in my work.”
For me this is a really confronting piece. I don’t know the fear she is talking about, but I can understand and feel it through this work. So I’m happy she using this form to express her thoughts, feelings and experiences and in the process educating me.

'The constellation of my genealogy' by Addoley Dzegede

Addoley wanted to become an artist from a young age. She studied Fine Art. But it was 3 years ago she re-started her art career with a better view on what that should be. “I now actively started pursuing options which allow me to make new work. I don’t want to feel it's pointless what I’m doing, it need to have an audience”. The aim is an actual fulltime Art practice. She is now in an artist-in-residence allowing her to work and create, teach and experience what that could be like.
I recognise this quest(ion), this struggle very well. Lately I’m struggling a lot with what to make, not that I don’t have ideas, but more the wanting to have a place, a point, to show it. The struggle or question for me is where does my Art start and were does it end. Am I an artist if I’m writing, if I’m giving a talk, walking through nature. For me personally I don’t feel a difference, because all is me.  But for the outside I feel I need to separate these things, place them in boxes, explain them, even make a choice between them. As always, the path I think I have to choose, turns into a highway and before I know it, I’m doing what I thought I should leave behind me. There isn’t that much choosing to be done as I would like there to be. It is more about creating and getting opportunities. The opportunities that allows me to make, share, and to be. I started to use my blog more and more as a tool to learn from people in my field. It allows me to ask questions I ask myself and learn how things work in different creative fields. 

Addoley is working towards an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis (USA). 
She is making her own Wax Prints that specifically reference histories of St. Louis. Some are general knowledge, others are more specific. The titles will explain what the reference is. For example, a brick pattern gets the title ’37 21’. ’37 21’ is the number of a building that used to exist across the street from the museum that was torn down a year ago. Also St. Louis has a history in producing bricks, it was a big industry. These two stories come together in this Wax Print.
Another work is a Soft Sculpture Necklace of 45 beads on the floor. The enlarged beads made from textile connected with a cord will look like buoys. They refer to the history of trade beads. These beads are often called African trade beads, but they were made in Europe and used for trading with, and trade for people. They are in the same family as Wax Prints; they are seen as African, but are made in Europe.

Last December I got a package from Addoley. In it a Soft Sculpture Bead made from the Lady Africa Wax Print fabric (see previous post The Lady Africa Wax Print). 
So a little sneak preview of what the beads will look like. I’m really looking forward seeing the final installation!

Addoley’s exhibition ‘Addoley Dzegede: Ballast’ will be held from May 11th (opening night) till August 19th at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

For more visit addoley.com

March 20, 2018

Europalia - Power and other things at BOZAR

My second visit to one of the Europalia exhibitions was mixed with joy and surprise. I made a second visit to the growing installations at WIELS, looking forward to the next step in the work by Ada van Hoornebeke and Maartje Fliervoet & seeing my beans grow. I started my morning with receiving a gift bag by Europalia which I won entering a competition online. The bag included a wonderful purple umbrella and a miniature boat of which that I saw the original later in Liège.
I just finished reading the biography of Gerret Pieter Rouffaer (1860-1928) by Frank Okker to help me with my research. His life and legacy is something I'm exploring now to find out more about Batikmaker Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (1817-1867). So when I entered the exhibition 'Power and other things' fully expecting "modern art", I was pleasantly surprised entering at 1865 with two paintings by Raden Saleh (1811-1880). It was as if I continued in the timeframe I already was fully immersed in. And not only that, with strong markers, pieces from history, that matched the storylines in my head. 
The paintings by Raden Saleh show the strength and power of the Merapi volcano. One shows an eruption at day, one at night. When I was on Java in 2016 Merapi was blowing smoke the whole time. The Merapi is a very visible marker, so in one way it was for me the 'I'm almost home' point, because Sleman was my temporary home away from home, at the other hand it was a relief that every time I returned it didn't erupted. Raden Saleh's paintings visualise the eruptions both beautifully and terrifyingly well.

Merapi, Eruption by night by Raden Saleh in 1865
Collection Naturalis, Leiden

Merapi Eruption by daytime by Raden Saleh in 1865
Collection Naturalis, Leiden

Next up was Jan Toorop (1858-1928). Where Raden Saleh represent the Javanese artist getting praise outside Indonesia and more specifically in the Netherlands for showing us true Javanese culture. Jan Toorop is the Javanese born-artist getting praise for being Dutch...He left an interesting body of work in which his roots clearly shine through, however he is always seen as an Dutch symbolic artist with a interest in Indonesia. It really emphasizes the Dutch view on their colonies and the people that were a direct result of these colonies. By only looking at the Dutch, it feels like there is no room for this shared heritage, this mixed history and what it meant. 
There were different wondreful works on display and a photo album showing portraits of Jan Toorop. My favourite work had to be Toorop's Batik Statement. The young artist, 22 years old, sitting in room covered with batiks, surrounded by different objects, looking at the ground as if lost in thoughts. 

Self portrait in Studio wearing Javanese dress
by Jan Toorop in 1880
Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

The photo I started this post with is of a tile tableau designed by Jan Toorop in 1900. I know this image as long as I can remember. It is always used when showing the "fusion" of East & West ("Oost & West"), Indonesia and the Netherlands. I always thought of it as such a cliche, not realising what the image actually was (See the sketch of this work in this post). As I mentioned above, I was and am fully submerged in between 1850 and 1910. Only two weeks before I was standing in front of this work, I was flipping through an catalog of an exhibition about "Nederlands-Indische kunstnijverheid" ("Dutch Indonesian crafts") organised by and at 'Oost en West'. This tile tableau was made specifically for their location, a gallery for showing Art from Indonesia. Rouffaer was one of their experts, writing about and sharing his knowledge on many subjects. Batiks from the batikworkshop of Raden Saleh's wife were on display in the gallery. Oost en West was a place with a group of people with whom, if it was today, I would probably hangout all the time.

'Papuan man' by Emiria Sunassa in 1951
Collection Nasirun, Indonesia

Next to this visit back in time, there were certainly artworks from a nearer past that were just as inspiring. The fast sketched drawings by Emiria Sunassa of Papuan men stepping out of the jungle, showing there hunt trophies. The style is simple and so fresh.

The miniature paintings by Japanese artist Makoto Murata are small copies of 153 war paintings,  sensōga , in the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. Displaying the sensōga let to different conflicts and the museum has an ongoing issue with ownership of the paintings. Murata's tiny copies allows people to view the entire collection and look back at the history of the Asia-Pacific War (1913-1941).

The exhibition had also two interesting works on fabric with very different stories. The handkerchief with portraits on them hang in a staircase leading down to an installation. The portraits are of women who due to their commitment to the Indonesian Communist Party were put in concentration camps in 1965. I think it is a beautiful and strong statement to portray this women on something that can catch sadness. 
The second story on fabric was in a temporary set-up between the two exhibitions, 'Ancestors & Rituals' and 'Power and other things' at BOZAR. The work by Alexis Gautier was made around the creation of a new island. This magic island that appeared over night, aka was made by the artist, was a way of seeing how people live, interact and own islands. Part of the exhibition was 'Princess's Weave'. The story goes that in 1505 Queen of the small Buton island in Sulawesi decided to cut her striped dress into small squares, creating a currency for her island! For the five following centuries the bank notes were exclusively woven by the princesses. This amazing story is true and how did I never heard of it before. Apparently 12 pieces of this woven money survived and are being kept in Museum Nasional in Jakarta. It sounds like to most amazing money in the world!

Work by Octora Chan based on Colonial Balinese portraits

For more on this exhibition read the article on DutchCulture 'The role of art in Indonesia'

For more on Europalia visit europalia.eu or keep checking my blog because more posts are coming up soon!