Museum Kain: The legacy of love
I Wayan Juniartha
The Jakarta Post
The past 12 months have been a nerve-wrecking period for Josephine 'Obin' Komara, founder and owner of upscale batik-inspired cloth producer Bin House.
During that period, the renowned cloth-maker experienced two devastating losses, which transformed her from a witty, outspoken woman into a stoic, reflective lady.
In mid-December 2012, she lost her mother, a woman, who according to Obin, had taught her everything she needed to survive in the world and the importance of being a caring mother for others as a way to help people.
Obin's penchant for feeding, literally and metaphorically, her growing circle of friends and her impulsive emphatic drive, which saw her embarking on massive relief campaigns to disaster-devastated regions at the drop of a hat, were inherited from her mother.
Barely one month later, Obin lost Roni Siswandi, a man of many things for her ' lover, husband, buddy and muse. A noted anthropologist, who treated batik both as a precious cultural heritage and a promising economic commodity, Roni Siswandi was the man behind Bin House's rise to global prominance.
For Obin, Roni was the only person who understood her completely, thus, fully accepted her. 'He knows that when I am angry I am actually sad.'
Obin was so heartbroken when Roni passed away that she decided to shelve an ongoing project of building a cloth museum on a 400 square-meter space on the third floor of Beachwalk, a hip mall in Kuta, Bali.
'It was Roni's idea to build a museum for me. And I was so engulfed by grief that I could not think of continuing the project.'
Their son and Bin House's heir, Erlangga 'Elang' Komara stepped in and took over the project. Assisted by Roni's older brother, Yusman Siswandi, Elang supervised the continuation of the project.
The museum was opened late last month in a syncretic Javanese-Chinese ritual ' an apt tribute to the origin of batik ' during which Obin, with tears in her eyes, referred to the museum as 'Roni's dream and Elang's accomplishment'.
It is the first cloth museum on the island and the country's first that integrates an authentic collection with state of the art presentation technology.
Named simply Museum Kain, it is housed inside a cocoon-shaped outer wall, a powerful symbol of metamorphosis.
The lighting system was meticulously arranged in a way that subtle beams of light only fall on the displayed works. The winding passageway for the visitors was purposefully darkened, prompting the visitors to concentrate only on the rare cloths, some are 100-years-old, created by skillful artisans in traditional batik centers along Java's northern coastal line, Bali and other regions.
A touch-screen display embedded in an aesthetic wooden panel was set in front of each of the rare cloths. The display system is powered by an interactive program devised by a German expert Hans-Dieter Hahn, who in the past had been involved in designing a similar program for several high-profile museums, including the Holocaust Memorial in Washington.
In the display, the visitor could access information on the specific cloth, including the historical background of its motifs, the coloring materials and techniques used, as well as its dimension.
A larger touch-screen display at the end of the passageway provides more detailed information on batik in Indonesia.
The museum currently displays 61 rare batik pieces from Obin and Roni's collection. They had collected rare batik for 40 years and had in their possession around 600 valuable cloths.
'Once every six months we will change the cloths on display with other rare cloths from Obin and Roni's collection,' Yusman said.
For Obin, who admitted that she felt both melancholic and ecstatic during the opening, the museum was not only the legacy of love of the two men she adored the most ' her husband and her son ' but, more importantly, it was her family's contribution to her nation and the world.
'I am humbled that we have been given an opportunity to contribute something to the world,' she says.
Months after her tragic losses, the woman ' affectionately called Bunda (mother) by so many people in low and high places ' had finally found the courage to move on.
' Photos by I Wayan Juniartha
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