Batik is a technique that adds pattern to cloth traditionally used as dress. While the origins are claimed by multiple cultures, the Indonesian island of Java is credited with some of the most technically accomplished examples. Before colonization by the Dutch (and briefly the British), the region had long participated in trade with India, China, the Middle East and Europe resulting in exposure to the influences of multiple cultures and religions. Whether batik originated on the island of Java or first arrived via trade is uncertain. From the 1850s imitation batik was produced in various European countries, and eventually found a market in west and central Africa. In 2009, the Republic of Indonesia received recognition under the UNESCO designation Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for batik.

  • Image credit

    Miguel de Moreno (2014) © Javier Hirschfeld Moreno

  • Written for

    Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of World Textiles (forthcoming)