Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to material. The technique is known to have existed in Egypt in the 4th century BC, where the linen used to wrap mummies was soaked in wax, and scratched using a stylus. In Asia, the technique was practised in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and in India and Japan during the Nara Period (645-794 AD). In Africa it was originally practised by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, and the Soninke and Wolof in Senegal. These African versions, however, use cassava starch or rice paste, or mud as a resist instead of beeswax.
But it is Indonesia which is perhaps best known for the most highly developed batik techniques and art, and where many of the designs are steeped in tradition and symbolism.
Batik is made either by drawing a design on to the material with molten wax using a tool called a “canting” or a stiff brush, or by printing the design using a copper stamp called a “cap”.
This applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to colour selectively by soaking the cloth in one colour, drying, then removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colours are desired.
In 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
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