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.”

Abrupt pivot to civility in post-Trump era after Biden inauguration

Updated 21 January 2021

Abrupt pivot to civility in post-Trump era after Biden inauguration

  • “Democracy has prevailed,” Biden said in his sober remarks, adding, “We must end this uncivil war.”

WASHINGTON: Washington couldn’t turn the page quickly enough from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.
Trump’s voice faded from the capital he had animated and antagonized since 2017 as he flew to private life in Florida, with his last trip on Air Force One tuned in to Biden’s inauguration on television.
And quite suddenly, at least for the moment, the old ways were back: reverence of custom, rituals dating back two centuries, scenes of grace, calls for unity.
Four years after Trump’s dark portrayal of “American carnage,” Biden set out his intent on the same platform of the flag-bedecked Capitol to write “an American story of hope.”
Masked in the Oval Office, as he’d been all day except when speaking, the new president began writing that story with his pen. As night fell, he signed executive orders chipping away at Trump’s legacy. One put the US on track to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

The ascension of the 46th president came with poetry, trumpets, Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Garth Brooks singing “Amazing Grace” and keen memories of the insurrection on these grounds by Trump supporters only two weeks earlier.
“Democracy has prevailed,” Biden said in his sober remarks, adding, “We must end this uncivil war.”
“Modest, austere, grave, calming, cleansing, inspiring,” historian Michael Beschloss said of Biden’s speech.
The bigger names may well have been upstaged by 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, whose poem spoke of a country “Where a skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother, can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.” Trump didn’t summon a poet for his inauguration in 2017; not all presidents do.
Biden emerged from Blair House, the president’s official guesthouse, to open his day just as Trump vanished inside the big plane at Joint Base Andrews, as if their footsteps had been choreographed. But the outgoing president was not one to coordinate anything with the incoming one.
Trump never conceded the election, declined to attend the inauguration and upended the tradition of sending a government plane to bring the president-elect to Washington. Nor did he invite the

Bidens to the White House for morning coffee and tea, as the Obamas had done for the Trumps in 2017.
He hewed to one tradition, leaving a letter to his successor — a “very generous” one, Biden said without disclosing its contents right away.
Biden opened his presidency acknowledging former presidents on the platform, Republican and Democrat, and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, who attended the ceremony and acknowledged Biden’s victory in ways Trump never did. Biden did not offer a personal acknowledgment of the man he defeated, nor did Trump mention him.
Under threat of conviction from the Senate on an accusation of inciting insurrection, Trump departed with a perfunctory nod to those who have died from the coronavirus, an obligatory wish of “luck” to the next administration without mentioning Biden’s name, a premature claim on any success Biden might have reviving the economy, and the cloudy threat of a return.
“Have a nice life,” Trump said in remarks to well-wishers upon his departure. As Air Force One flew low along the coast, Biden’s inauguration played on Fox News on television aboard the flight. Trump’s family was on board. He spent some of the flight with flight staff who went up to him to say goodbye.

Rituals of the republic went on without him, though in a way never before seen. Washington got on with things, this time with masks on everyone (except Brooks), people taking care to distance from each other and some 25,000 National Guard troops and police deployed to keep the peace.
In a striking tableau at the Capitol, three former presidents and first ladies of different parties mingled as though at a cocktail party. And again, in hushed moments at Arlington National Cemetery, where Biden and Harris led a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and spouses watched.

It was among the inaugural events where a new president and his successor normally come together but Trump had decided to skip the day’s proceedings and Biden had said that was fine with him.
The inauguration crowds were sparse by design, with invitation-only guests at the immediate scene and 200,000 small flags standing in place of however many citizens would have come if the capital’s core hadn’t been under military lock and key and if no pandemic had been sweeping the country.
The parade to the White House in late afternoon had all of the usual pageantry and military pizazz but none of the crowds that would be normally lining the route. Biden, a famously tactile politician, had little to touch other than the hand of his wife, Jill, when he and his family walked the last leg to their new home.


He darted away a few times to the sidewalk approaching the White House, saying hello to Washington’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, at one point and giving weatherman Al Roker a fist bump as they stood among the officials and journalists in the secure area.
Earlier more than 100 people waited in the cold waiting to get through a security checkpoint to reach Pennsylvania Avenue, where they hoped to catch a glimpse of the procession. Many had to watch on their phones.
“We’ve turned the page,” said Vernal Crooms, who attended Howard University when Harris studied there but didn’t know her. He was happy to see the Trump era end. “Light prevailed,” he said, “and the lie didn’t last.”
Raelyn Maxwell of Park City, Utah, came with an American flag, a poster board sign reading “Dear Women of Color, thank you” and a bouquet of roses she hoped to toss to Kamala Harris if she could somehow get close enough to the new vice president.
“I protested 45’s inauguration,” she said of Trump, the 45th president, “and I wanted to be here when he left. “And I wanted to celebrate the new president.” She also carried Champagne to toast the occasion with friends here from France.

Biden, the second Roman Catholic president, attended a morning mass at St. Matthews Church with at least three Baptists — Harris and Republican leaders Mitch McConnell from the Senate and Kevin McCarthy from the House — and the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish.
It was one of those bipartisan, not to mention multi-faith, events that Washington is known for, coexisting with searing political division.
St. Matthew, patron saint of civil servants, was a tax-collector and, on the brighter side, an apostle who spread the gospel exhorting people to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” according to the church’s teachings.
There were at least stirrings of that Wednesday.