Spotlight Stories

Batik Motifs

Discover the patterns, symbols, and designs of Indonesia’s signature craft

Batik, originating from the Javanese word meaning ‘painted’, uses a wax-resist dyeing process to produce colorful textiles. Developed on the island of Java, lines and patterns created in Indonesian batik are particularly symbolic, and in 2009 UNESCO named Batik in Indonesia as a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Using the zoom-in feature, take a look at the extravagant Batik in ultra-high-resolution and explore the secret patterns and hidden stories that bring these national treasures to life.

It’s a Bird! It’s a... Polygon?

This diamond-shaped motif, called “Sawa,” is actually a representation of the mythical bird Garuda in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity -- the wide-winged shape represents power, force and speed.

Ikat Kepala/Udeng 64, 1950, artist unknown (Collection: Galeri Batik YBI)

Slippery Slope

Reserved for royalty, the parallel and diagonal patterns of this Batik signify authority and quickness in motion, which expects the wearer to act fast. Called the “Parang,” the detailed motif in these lines are often interpreted as ocean waves.

Kain Panjang 125, 1950, artist unknown (Collection: Galeri Batik YBI)

Flower Power

Floral patterns are common in Batik, decorating the textiles with curves, color and looser lines. Sacred in Hindi-Buddhist belief systems, the lotus blossom often appears in batik textiles. Other flowers that are frequent favorites include the frangipani, hibiscus and lilies.

#0157 Kain Panjang, artist unknown (Collection: Museum Tekstil, Unit Pengelola Museum Seni)
Kain Panjang 362, 2000, artist unknown (Collection: Galeri Batik)
Kain Panjang Pagi Sore Bolak Balik, 1950, artist unknown (Collection: Galeri Batik)

Continue exploring the Wonders of Indonesia project here.

Share this story with a friend
Google apps