Fading Tradition of Batik – Interview Report by Ivan Yew of NTU, ADM.

Mr. Ivan Yew, a student from the Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media visited our studio to conduct an interview to assist in his project related to ‘Fading Tradition’. He submitted this report for posterity:

As a student from NTU, School of Art, Design and Media, I am currently working on a project called “Fading Tradition”. This project identifies those fading traditions and strives to give them relevance in today’s society, presenting it to a contemporary culture that gives it a refreshing new life. I have
chosen Batik as my ‘fading’ tradition and it was inspiring to have an interview with Mr. Kamal Dollah, whose expertise is in the field of Batik as well, having background in graphic design helps upon the discussion of bringing Batik into the contemporary culture now. Firstly, Mr. Kamal was kind enough to went through with me generally the history of Batik and the concerning issues revolving around it such as, whether Batik is really fading in Singapore’s present context and the ownership of this intriguing tradition. All these answers can be found in one of Mr. Kamal’s blog entry: http://kamaldollah.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/interview-about-singapore-batik-by-students-of-raffles-institution-junior-college/

Indeed, these are the controversial questions among many curious students who are interested in Batik. But perhaps what seems more interesting to me is how Batik despite being a “fading” tradition can be still seen widely used or developed in many places now. Motifs symbolism varied as Batik is being practised in different areas. Like what Mr. Kamal has mentioned, Batik is in fact like an acculturation which pretty much means the result of the process of adopting multiple cultures’ traits or social patterns. True enough, it can be seen using in a lot of applications for different purposes. A good point to think about probably would be the contemporary practice/ use of Batik, which Mr.
Kamal has generously shared with me his thoughts about his thesis for his Master of Arts degree in Contemporary Practice on batik-painting in contemporary art-making- to propel and present Batik as a newer and higher level of art appreciation. Having to mention the interest in the fusion between
Batik and art installation by Mr. Kamal has sparked a new way of thinking in me towards such a tradition. One of the examples of Mr. Kamal’s Batik installation: http://kamaldollah.wordpress.com/2007/03/29/graduation-show-ma-contemporary-practice/

Likewise, this is something which I am trying to look at; to how we can bring back this uniquely art to a more modern context which can be also be realized of its rich history by the people now. Again, Mr. Kamal added that Batik can be seen as something subjective which made it a challenge to bring it to a common position in the hearts of many people. At same time, Mr. Kamal is an art educator who conducts workshops and demonstrations aimed to increase the awareness of Batik to more people while bringing out the passion in those interested. But of course, from the current trends of the new generation being attracted to new technology and interests, it is important to capture their attention into Batik quick and impactful and this can be seen reflected in Mr. Kamal’s workshops through his documentation in his online art journal. Though I did not attend one but it will be a pleasure to be able to. For those interested in the courses offered by Mr. Kamal and his team: http://kamaldollah.wordpress.com/art-class-programme/
Despite the fact that having understood from Mr. Kamal that there isn’t really publicity for Batik; he has been trying to engage with the National Arts Council to promote the learning and practice of Batik through a common ground where Batik lovers and practitioners can get together, exchange and share their thoughts. Eventually, exposing many more to the different aspects of Batik and may even bring it to a whole new level, onto many potentially unexplored platforms suitable for the existence of Batik.
Presumptuous thinking has become a common problem in understanding Batik in relation to a specific race or group of people and especially is ‘fading’, which seems not so the case after getting to know more about Batik from him. To Mr. Kamal, it is known more to that Batik is evolving. Although it is essential to keep up with the moving trends in terms of Batik, but sometimes reliving Batik in its traditional way can also be a new experience.
“Why blend in when you can stand out?”
Ivan Yew

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