🍵: How We Express and Communicate Our Identity

We are all part of a bigger story

“Wow, that’s beautiful. What’s that?” he asked as he pointed to a stand with rolls of fabric. With their intricate patterns, they were unusual for us Europeans, but fascinating nonetheless.

It was the first day in Kuala Lumpur and I was standing on the 20th floor of the Eaton Residences in front of our window with a view of the skyline. “Am I really here?” I thought to myself. This trip had been dancing in my mind for 4 endless years. I had imagined so much. And now I’m in the middle of my mental movie.

Suddenly, a small building that stands out among the skyscrapers pulls me out of my trance.

Unlike the modern, blue and very tall skyscrapers with glass facades, this building looks… cozier. Warm brown tones and copper colors convey a calming feeling. It was the traditional Malaysian architecture that I loved so much.

But strange that a building like this is in the middle of the city center. “I wonder what it’s all about,” I muttered to myself.

It didn’t take long for me to get my answer.

After unpacking and recovering from the flight from Singapore, we ventured out into the burning, humid heat of the tropical sun. We strolled towards the city center. I led the way, with my wife’s smile behind me. She was delighted that I had finally fulfilled my dream.

With a big grin on my face, I marveled at the city, which looked like a jungle was slowly but surely engulfing it. It was just as colorful as I had imagined.

And just as I was marveling at the art of parking in Malaysia and spotting another palm tree whose roots had torn up the sidewalk, I saw it…

The very Malaysian building that piqued my curiosity.

I slowed down and didn’t notice my neck twisting because my gaze was fixed on this building. “Hey, that looks interesting. Shall we go in there?” I suddenly heard him say as he pointed right at this building.

We entered the building and total silence enveloped us. But it was a calm, peaceful silence. It made you feel as if we had discovered something that was not meant for many. We had barely taken a few steps when we saw a stall with rolls of fabric in front of us. “Is that what I think it is? Well, the history of Indonesia and Malaysia was often intertwined. So it’s no wonder I come across it here. But in Kuala Lumpur?” I thought to myself.

It was Batik.

It felt like yesterday when I had buried myself in the story about Indonesian Batik. And now I was standing in front of it. Overwhelmed by the beauty and importance of this craft. It was as if I was hearing all the stories immortalized in these fabrics.

He also noticed this stall and was just as impressed by the beauty of the material and pattern as I was. He asked what it actually was. “That’s Batik. An important tradition in Indonesia and Malaysia with a long history,” I replied, snapped out of my thoughts.

As early as the 6th century, Batik was used as clothing for kings and nobles. Over time, different techniques, patterns and styles emerged, varying according to region and culture.

“Batik is the Dutch version of the Indonesian “bathikan” and means “drawing” or “marking”. And that’s pretty fitting. Because in Batik, the cloth is marked with wax and then dyed. Which results in the typical patterns and colors,” I explained to him as we took a closer look at the patterns.

But by now I knew that there was more to every stitching than just an aesthetic work of art.

Batik is like a visual symphony. With intricate patterns and bright colors that don’t just look good. They tell of the past, show changes and influence trends.

We slowly walked on and discovered even more Batik clothing, accessories and decorative items. His look revealed that he was beginning to realize: Batik is more than just a beautiful fabric pattern. It also has cultural significance.

“Look,” I said, “the variety of patterns shows different influences.”

With the arrival of the Netherlands in Indonesia came new patterns, colors and techniques that blended with traditional Batik. When people from the Netherlands and Indonesia came together, they created something special: Indo-Dutch Batik. A unique style that combines both cultures. Indo-Dutch Batik quickly became famous and symbolized the cultural exchange between the two nations.

“But what fascinates me even more is the meaning behind the patterns. Each one has a story and stands for something,” I explained.

Batik wasn’t only used as decorative clothing. But also for communication and identification. “Indonesians used it as a way to subtly show their dissatisfaction and striving for independence from the Netherlands. For example, they hid messages and symbols in their designs,” I continued.

This is how Batik became a silent voice in the fight for freedom.

After Indonesia declared its independence, Batik became a symbol of national identity and unity. To this day, the Indonesian people wear Batik on national occasions and holidays, emphasizing their cultural heritage.

Is Batik now just a relic of the past?

No, it’s quite the opposite. Being recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has made it even more popular around the world. It has also helped make people more aware of the artists who dedicate their entire lives to preserving this ancient art.

Batik has long stopped being just a piece of fabric.

It’s a special symbol that represents Indonesia and shows who these people are. It’s a reminder of the rich history, cultural diversity, and incredible resilience of the people in this country.

When I discovered Batik, I realized one thing: fashion is not just clothes.

It’s a mirror of our society and culture. And a tool that we use to express and communicate our identity.

Batik is a perfect example of how a simple pattern on a fabric can mean so much more. It reminds us that we are all part of a bigger story. And that our culture and traditions have a special place in the world.

We left this building with a new understanding and respect for this art form.

And so our journey continued, always in search of the stories and treasures that this fascinating country still had to offer us.

After all, who knows what’s hidden around the next corner?

We were ready to discover everything.

And Batik was just the beginning.