A Sweet Visit to Batik Town, Lasem.

An update from my Java road trip! I'm finally in Surabaya after a 24 hours journey from Jakarta. On the road, we were passing Lasem, and mom told me that this part of Java is known for their batik heritage. I've always been so interested in getting to know more about batik, but I don't know where to start. And I'm now here in the center of where it's all being made?? I was so psyched! 

Thanks to Dad impulsively getting out of the car and asking people on the street if they know some place where we can buy batik supplies, we finally arrived at this one place. One becak driver brought us to a house, which looks like a private house. Door is closed, no big sign that shows if it's a store, or a workshop, or something. 

We parked on the side of the road and doubtfully entering the door, I was worried if I might be trespassing someone's private property. We were greeted by a friendly old guy, he said he and his wife runs the place, and it's a batik workshop. His name is Pak Sigit Witjaksono. There was no one else around, he said all the batik crafters are going to their hometown for Eid holiday. We asked if we interrupted him, but instead he gave us a tour of his batik workshop. This is my first batik workshop visit ever and I was so speechless looking at those many manual processes to make one sheet of fabric. The water used to rinse and boil batik was from a well, and they boil the fabric with a massive stove with charcoal. I wish I could come back another day to watch the batik tulis process, but for now all of this impromptu visit and learning is already so impressive to me.

Pak Sigit then asked us to sit down to stay around and chat a little more. He told us about batik Lasem's history, how his family was one of the first who started batik craftsmanship in Lasem, how was Chinese culture influencing the colors and the story being put in batik. Batik Lasem is essentially Chinese and Indonesian culture as a piece of art. As an Indonesian with Chinese decent myself, I've never felt so close and related to the story he told, and to batik. Diversity should be beautiful, not tear everyone apart. It made my teary thinking about how beautiful it is that one piece of fabric can symbolize a history of diversity and tolerance.

He showed us around the house, which was built during the Dutch era, and gave this lovely old house a twist of Dutch, Javanese, and Chinese history. He said that some movies used this house for a set, and they also asked Pak Sigit to be in it. He is such a cool guy. We sat around for another two hours looking at pictures from his photo albums. He asked my dad to guess how old is he, and he turned out to be 80 years old this year. It really doesn't look like it. A few moments after that, his wife came home and he introduced us to Bu Marpat.

We were so grateful that they gave us their time to introduce me to batik, when initially all we wanted to do was to shop for batik supplies to try at home. Instead we met a living legend and had time to chat around, and visit their historical house. They said that some local school students would come to their place and learn about batik & Lasem history too. Bu Marpat went inside the house, and gave me a piece of canting, malam, and a piece of white fabric for me to bring home. The whole thing was a precious experience, it felt like a movie. I feel so thankful for Mom & Dad who had initiated this the first time, and to the batik driver who showed us this place.  made my heart so full, and I wish everybody else would feel the same overwhelmed excitement I feel when they see batik. Just this first real encounter with batik making really inspired me to write and let more people know about batik, and this will not be my only encounter because I can only love batik more.

A picture with Bu Marpat & Pak Sigit in front of their house. :D

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