The Jakarta Post
Old tradition meets new technology in an application allowing users to discover the richness of batik motifs.
Batik does not only belong to Java, as it can also be found across the country where regions have their own typical batik colors and motifs.
In an attempt to record such batik richness, the Bandung Fe Institute research center and Sobat Budaya community recently released a Peta Batik Nasional (National Batik Map) application to help improve people's understanding on the cultural element that has been acknowledged by UNESCO.
'We've been familiar with batik for so long, but there's no single repository that collects data on the thousands of batik motifs that we have,' the institute's president Hokky Situngkir said.
He said the application was launched to promote the institute's study, entitled Fisika Batik (Batik Physics), which mapped out batik patterns from many regions in Indonesia.
The application, he said, was also a continuation of a digital library on Indonesia's culture, budaya-indonesia.org, built by the institute to bring together explanations about batik and other parts of Indonesia's culture, including folklore, old manuscripts, traditional architecture, traditional dances and traditional healing practices.
Hokky said the process to make the application was quite simple, but the data collection, conducted by Sobat Budaya, took most of the time and energy.
'Together with Sobat Budaya, we gathered information on batik and mapped out the kinds of batik in Indonesia along with its philosophies,' Hokky said.
Sobat Budaya chairwoman Siti Wulandari said the research began in 2005, conducting expeditions to batik-producing regions on Java and other islands.
In addition, Wulan said they had asked the community's networks across the archipelago to contribute to the research.
'We announced on our social media platforms that we needed information about batik in [users'] respective regions. The responses were overwhelming, lots of our volunteers expressed their interest to participate,' she said.
From the research, Sobat Budaya managed to record more than 5,000 batik motifs from all over Indonesia.
'We never stop researching, because there are still many motifs that need further exploration,' Wulan said.
The information collected by Sobat Budaya was then given to Bandung Fe to be processed digitally in order to add the content to the website and the application.
Hokky said the digital process was carried out by combining mathematical fractal structures, color-computing science and evolutionary biology research.
He said batik patterns formed such a new mathematical geometrical pattern, called fractal, which became one of the main variables in the mapping.
'Another important variable of the process is color compositions and distributions which later underwent a computation analyzing process,' he said.
The application, available for iOS and Android, is easy to use. It allows users to get a brief understanding about batik, starting from its etymology, history, types of batik and philosophies behind some motifs, such as Ciptoning, Parang, Kawung, Sekar Jagad, Gringsing, Sido Mukti and Grompol.
However, out of 5,000 motifs that were recorded in the research, fewer than 20 motifs are featured in the application.
'We found it difficult to get historical explanations on other motifs. Many motifs we found didn't have enough explanation to be put in the application,' Hokky said.
Nevertheless, Hokky expressed hope that the application could become a quantitative method to see the evolution of batik, while at the same time, be a tool to help identify batik motifs that remained unfamiliar to people.
'Most importantly, we want this to be an educational tool for people who want to delve deeper into batik,' he said.
Hokky added that the institution was currently working on an English-version of the application so it could be a reference for a broader audience.
' Photos by Novia D. Rulistia