The Royal Palace of Yogyakarta’s Batik Painter : A Devotion to Javanese Art


Batik, as known worldwide, is both an art and a craft which is becoming more popular as a wonderful panting in many mediums. In Indonesia, Batik originally painted in a sheet of cloth and designed for Royal Family fashion purpose.

My visit to Keraton Yogyakarta on May brought a memorable story as (luckily) I had a chance to talk to the Royal Batik Painter, Ibu Surajiyem. Entering the Keraton complex from Tepas Pariwisata lead me to hidden medium Pendopo (such a terrace for Javanese house) where some Royal Batik Painters do their daily work.

Ibu Surajiyem sat down in the floor with her stuffs. Using a simple Javanese costume, she calmly painted a slice of cloth with certain Batik pattern. While she works, she welcomed me with a friendly chat. Started to learn about painting batik since she was in the first grade of elementary school has made her more than expert to make a high quality standard of Batik Tulis clothes.

“How many days that you need to finish one slice of Batik Tulis?” I asked.
“It depends on the pattern, Miss. For a simple one I need more less a month to make it done perfectly. But some patterns that need more details may take 3 months to finish.” She answered with a smile.

She started her devotion as Abdi Dalem (serving the Royal Family) since 1999 and works in the Keraton (Palace) from 09.00 to 15.00 to make many kinds of Batik Painting. Regularly, her works will be offered to the Royal Family members and if they like it, they will use it on various events inside of the palace, but if not the Batiks will be sold to people with a certain price.

“It is a pleasure and pride when they like my works and use it on the Keraton events.” she said it proudly.

Of course, for an Abdi Dalem, the highest pride for them is the appreciation from the Royal Family Member, not money. Abdi Dalem gets very low salary for their work since their purpose is more to a devotion to the Sultanate.

“It does not matter how much money I get from this job, as long as my heart peace, I am happy to do this job.” She said.

She also explained that from this job, she has visited Japan for six times as part of encourage culture exchange team.

“Oh really?” I reply surprisingly when she said that.
“So what did you do in Japan?” I continued.
“Of course painting Batik! I’m the master of Batik!” she said it with confidence and a big smile.

Her Batik is indeed very beautiful. I saw some of her works that be sold to people. I loved it, but unfortunately the price was unaffordable for me. I ended up the conversation by saying thank you and wished her a success life ahead.

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