Never say dye: Chinese batik claim angers Indonesian netizens

Batik is a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics with removable wax. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Never say dye: Chinese batik claim angers Indonesian netizens

  • Online critics take aim at Beijing over ‘cultural appropriation’

JAKARTA: When Chinese state news agency Xinhua posted a video clip last week claiming batik as a traditional Chinese art form, some Indonesians responded with fury on social media, with several accusing Beijing of “cultural appropriation.”

In the July 12 tweet, the news agency reported that batik – a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics with removable wax – was a “traditional craft common among ethnic groups in China,” and had evolved in modern times, and was practiced by ethnic minority groups in Guizhou and Yunnan.

The tweet ended with the hashtag #AmazingChina and a 49-second clip demonstrating how patterns on the fabric are processed. It has been retweeted and liked thousands of times.

However, experts say the claims are far from the truth.

“Batik is a terminology typical to Indonesia. In terms of etymology, I don’t think there are words and pronunciation like batik in Chinese dialects,” Agni Malagina, a researcher on Indonesia-China affairs, told Arab News on Saturday.

Following the tweet, netizens took to the social media website to “educate China” on the origin of the word batik. Several said it was coined from the Javanese words “amba” and “tik,” which means to mark or draw dots. A user named Kiki urged China to be “a country with pride, not just to copy and claim the property of other nations.”

In a harsh statement, Twitter user @mpuanon said: “This is truly a counterfeit batik. The design is very basic and simple. The only original thing that came of out China is COVID-19, the China virus.”

The batik process also includes drawing on spots, followed by an application of wax on the cloth using canting.

“The canting itself is a tool typical of Indonesia,” said Malagina, who added that although the technique to hand-dye on fabric using wax is also found in other cultures, batik as a piece of cloth is used extensively in various social contexts and rites of passage in Indonesia — from birth and marriage to death.

It is common in Indonesia to cover a dead body in batik while waiting for it to be bathed. It is then wrapped with a burial shroud before the funeral.

Malagina said some motifs carry a philosophical meaning and are worn for special occasions, including marriage.

“For example, the truntum motif represents unconditional and long-lasting love. It is worn by parents of the bride and the groom during a marriage ceremony, as a symbol of eternal love for their children,” Malagina said, adding that different motifs also represent different regions.

Batik produced by regions on the northern coast of Java — where Chinese and other foreign migrants arrived in ancient times — tend to have vibrant colors, with red representing the Chinese influence and blue representing a European influence.

In contrast, batik produced from inland regions, the ancient home of Javanese kingdoms, tend to have earthy colors.

“This is what makes batik an Indonesian cultural heritage,” Malagina said.

Recognizing the cultural value of the art, UNESCO designated the Indonesian batik as a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” on Oct. 2, 2009, with the date celebrated as National Batik Day ever since.

After the uproar over Xinhua’s claim, the Indonesian foreign ministry ended the controversy with two tweets on July 13, explaining that batik is “an ancestral heritage and treasured in Indonesians’ daily lives.”

Xinhua later tweeted a revision.

The agency said: “The ancient Chinese craft of wax printing is highly skilled and time-consuming. The craft is also known as batik, a word of Indonesian origin which refers to a wax-resist dyeing technique practiced in many parts of the world.”


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.