Global Lessons: Bringing Indonesian Batik to Betsy Ross

February 3, 2016 | Events Archive

Global Lessons

Bringing Indonesian Batik and Culture to New Haven Middle School Students

ON Tuesday, February 2, the 8th grade art students in Ms. Galante’s class at the Betsy Ross Arts Middle School (BRAMS) in New Haven, CT received a special treat: an introduction to the beautiful and widely varied cultures of Indonesia.   For their current unit in Art class, the students will create their own batik masterpieces. They will start by drawing their own batik artwork on paper, and then transferring the design to canvas. Once the designs are on canvas, the students will work with hot wax, dripping the liquid through canting tools onto the fabric canvas, covering portions of their designs. As in the traditional ‘resist’ methods used to make hand-made batik, the fabric is then submerged in a vat of dye, so that the colors may soak into the fabric wherever the wax has not solidified. The first layer of wax is then removed, and subsequent stages of layered wax followed by dye steps allow multiple colors to fill the batik design.

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To inspire her students, Ms. Galante and BRAMS Art Director Sylvia Petriccione invited members of the International Silat Federation of New Haven to share an educational and cultural presentation on the art of batik and its context within Indonesia. The presentation emphasized the Indonesian national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” – “Unity in Diversity,” and showcased a wide variety of batik items. With 1000 inhabitated islands and more than 300 different cultural groups, batik patterns can vary widely from place to place all over Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world.

When presented with a selection of traditional batik patterns, the students recognized those inspired by Chinese culture, Arabic culture, Indian culture, as well as geometric patterns, floral patterns, and even mythical animals and creatures representative of Indonesia, like the garuda. The students had the opportunity to try on pieces of traditional batik sarongs, and to view some beautiful pieces of batik from around the country, provided on loan from the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York (KJRI-NY). KJRI-NY also sent traditional oleh-oleh, souvenirs, from Indonesia, including bookmarks with wayang kulit shadow puppet artwork, for the students to take home with them.

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After our visit, the students began working on the initial phases of their own batik designs. They drew designs inspired by floral patterns, geometric patterns, and even mythical creatures like dragons. Some chose to include trees, to signify their families, and signs of the zodiac for themselves and their parents. The presentation was covered in the local press also, with the New Haven Register printing pictures from the BRAMS Art class both online and in their print version.

With many thanks to the Consul General and the Staff of the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York (KJRI-NY)

BELOW: Students study pieces of traditional batik from KJRI-NY, and then create their own designs, first on paper, then transferred to fabric with the aid of light boxes. Next, the students apply wax to their designs to prepare them for the dying step. BRAMS Art teacher Ms. Galante teaches the students techniques related to batik, including how to properly hold the canting tool and apply wax to the batik fabric.

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About Us

We are the local New Haven, CT branch of the International Silat Federation of America and Indonesia, dedicated to sharing the traditional arts, culture, music, theater, and natural wellness methods of the Minangkabau community of West Sumatra, Indonesia.