Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Batik for Peranakan Altars (Peranakan Museum)

On Sunday (8th June), I had the pleasure of being invited to join a tour led by Alvin Yapp, the collector and donor of the Peranakan Museum's current and latest exhibition titled Auspicious Designs - Batik for Peranakan Altars. Alvin Yapp who is an avid collector of all things Peranakan had, over 7 years accumulated 72 unique batik cloth (mostly from Java, Indonesia) that are used in Peranakan Altars. He went one step further by bequesting this entire collection to the Peranakan Museum and named the primary donors as his parents, Matthew and Alice Yapp.  

Batik cloths are usually associated with Malay or Javanese clothing but rarely as materials used to adorn the altars of the household deity. To me this is another lovely example of how Overseas Chinese has evolved, adapt and amalgamate the local culture and materials and created their own unique styles. One must not forgot the local artisans commissioned for the Batik creation who may not have seen how deities such as the 8 immortals and Fu, Lu and Shou would have looked like other than through pictures or the beaded altar cloths made in China. The collection on display are mostly from the mid-20th century period. 

Auspicious Designs- Batok for Peranakan Altars (a special tour by Alvin Yapp)
Altar cloth
Other than for day to day use, the altar (Sam Kai) cloths were used for various deity celebrations and for funeral mourning purposes. The ones that were brought in from China were via either export or together with the migration of Chinese that came to this region. The materials were made with silk /cotton and depending on the cost, embroidered. The colors of choice during celebrations would have been auspicious red while the colors during mourning for the peranakans will likely to be blue, green and white.
For celebrations and Mourning
It is fascinating indeed to see on display a subset of this unique collection. Unfortunately, the rest of the donated collection are either undergoing restoration, still being research on, or in storage. Below are some of my favorite pieces that depict various Chinese auspicious symbols such as dragons, qilin, phoenixes, lions, etc. There is one batik that even depict's Red Riding Hood and instead of a wolf, a lion is shown instead !

The other a batik that caught my eye, shows figures holding the Republic of China flag and on top right corner is inscribed in reverse the Batik maker, which when translated, indicates its from the Tjang Ing batik workshop, Yogyarkarta which was a famous Peranakan trader in Batik.
Montage of batik altar cloth
Little Red Riding Hood and a Lion 
Figures with flag of the Republic of China 
The exhibition is slated to end in December 28, 2014, so make time and visit the exhibition. 

1 comment:

Eddy Soewantoro said...

I love batik too.
now I'll develop the Batik Bekasi motif to add the motif Batik Indonesia collection.
greet from Batik Bekasi
http://khasbatik.blogspot.com