Beautiful & Bold Batik: Indonesia’s Beloved Heritage Around the World

by: Gita Atiqa Faidiansyah & Indri Dwi Septiani


How did it arrive here?

The oldest mention of Javanese ‘kain batik’ in a known record is in the 16th century, long after the oldest wax-resist fabric dyeing existed during the 4th century BC in Egypt. After that, the technique was found in China and Japan around 500-600 AD before it was spread to surrounding Southeast Asia and eventually to Europe through the naval Silk Road and colonialism.

Batik in Africa

Ankara or Dutch wax prints were influenced by Indonesian batik. Initially, in the 19th century, a demand was created by the West African who was recruited by the Dutch to serve in the Dutch colonizing army in Indonesia. However, over time, the cloth developed its own roots in African society and became distinct from Indonesian batik. Look at the outstanding bright colors!

A lady selling colorful wax print fabrics in Togo (Sarlay, 2016)

Batik in Sri Lanka

Some say that batik has existed in Sri Lanka long before Indonesian batik came into existence, and it was the origin of Indonesian batik itself. Others said that the Dutch came to Sri Lanka and introduced Indonesian batik. Either way, Sri Lankan batik has a unique pattern that bore differences from the ones known in Indonesia, especially with its striking animal pattern.

Woman with brush painting batik in Kandy Sri Lanka (Sluijs, 2013)

Batik in Malaysia

As Indonesia’s closest geographical neighbor, Malaysia has a ton of shared similarities with Indonesia. In the 13th century, trade between the Javanese coastal cities and the Melayu kingdom thrived. It serves as a gateway of Javanese batik influence in Malaysian batik. Even so, malaysian batik is—without a doubt—a gorgeous fabric in its own light with its distinctive lack of animal pattern as opposed to Indonesian batik. 

A batik craftsman shows his skills at Kuala Lumpur’s Jadi Batik Centre (Ciencia, 2008)

All batik is beautiful in its way!

Batik, while being acknowledged by UNESCO as Indonesia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, has spread its seeds and expanded its roots in different countries across the globe. We have to understand that as long as the dynamical interactions of human beings continuously happen, cultures can be influenced. In fact, the African, Sri Lankan and Malaysian batik might have been influenced by Indonesian batik. Hence, It doesn’t imply that their batik or culture is less valid than ours. The art that lies in each batik cloth tells a different story regarding its origin. All in all, any type of batik is beautiful and unique!

Designed by Anna Avantie for IFW 2018 (Kristianto, 2018)


Ciencia, Shubert. (2008). A batik craftsman shows his skills at Kuala Lumpur’s Jadi Batik Centre [Photograph]. Flickr.

iWareBatik. (n.d.) The History of Indonesian Batik. Retrieved from Accessed 9 January 2021.

Kroese, W.T. (1976). The origin of the Wax Block Prints on the Coast of West Africa. Hengelo: Smit. ISBN9062895018.

Elliot, I.M., Brake, Brian. (2004). Batik; fabled cloth of java.Periplus. ISBN 0794602436.

Permatasari, P. A., & Cantoni, L. (2019). Indonesian Tourism and Batik: An Online Map. E-review of Tourism Research, 16.

Purnomo, Kristianto. (2018). Model memeragakan baju rancangan Anne Avantie di Indonesia Fashion Week, JCC [Photograph].

Sarlay, A. (2016). Afrikanische Textilien [Photograph]. Wikipedia.

Sluijs, Peter. (2013). Woman with brush painting batik in Kandy Sri Lanka [Photograph]. Wikimedia Commons.