Guest Post – Batik Art

The following article is a guest post from Batik Boutique, which discuses briefly about Batik Art and its relationship to Islam.


Batik is such an ancient and widespread art form that it is difficult to trace the exact origins of the craft. The word “batik” derives from the Javanese word titik meaning “to dot.” Batik refers to a technique of wax-resistant dying that has been around for thousands of years and used throughout many different cultures. It is an intricate and labor-intensive process wherein skilled artisans create beautiful, detailed layers of patterns, colors, and unique designs in cloth or fabric. At the Batik Boutique, our artisans and craftsmen are empowered through their mastery and application of batik. For us, understanding and appreciating the rich history of batik empowers our practice of this ancient art form.


Early examples of batik have been found in the Far East, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa dating back over 2000 years. There is evidence that the ornate designs were used in Egypt during burial ceremonies as far back as the 4th century. Batik patterns were present in artwork during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China and the Nara Period (645-794 AD) in Japan.  Examples of batik methods of craftsmanship also emerged in the early centuries AD in the Yuruba tribe of Nigeria and the Soninke and Wolof tribes of Senegal. While wax-resistant dying and batik style artisan work may have developed independently in multiple regions, it is likely to have its origin in China. From there, the intricate patterns and methods of batik quickly dispersed around the world. The art form traveled along caravan routes and trading roads west to the Middle East and India, and south to the Malay Archipelago, where the artists of the Batik Boutique are practicing today.


Batik made its way along this path, spreading its intricate designs and geometric patterns all over the world. Each region has developed their own specific uses for and patterns of batik art that are unique. The Malay Archipelago is widely considered home to one of the most developed and advanced uses of the batik method, specifically in Indonesia and Malaysia, where we have our studio. The island of Java in Indonesia has been particularly influential on the history and modern application of batik art and craftsmanship in textiles. From the 6th century, batik patterns could be found in clothing, carved into statues, and on paintings. These intricate patterns were traditionally designs consisting of flowers and leaves, designs which are still seen in fashion and art in the Malay Archipelago today.


The advanced development of batik art on the Malay Peninsula is closely linked to Islam. While batik spread to Malaysia before Islam, the influence of the religion no doubt compounded the importance and prevalence of batik artistry. Batik art lends itself specifically well to Islamic cultures. In order to avoid the interpretation of human and animal images as idolatry, Islamic artists do not depict humans or animals in their art. Batik allows artists of Islamic faith to use stylized ornamentations to create aesthetic images and geometric patterns called ceplok to symbolize animals, plants, and even people in non-realistic, almost abstract ways. Batik has allowed Islamic artists the freedom of expression while still honoring their religious beliefs. Where we have seen Islamic art flourish, batik designs and methods are typically present.


While batik art has been prevalent in eastern cultures for thousands of years, it only reached Europe as an art form in the 1900s. The Dutch are often credited with bringing batik textiles back to Europe from their colonies in the Malay Archipelago. With a resurgence of interest in handmade craftsmanship after disillusionment with the Industrial Revolution, the intricate and “exotic” designs found in batik became fashionable in clothing and furniture throughout Germany, Poland, France, and Great Britain.


Today, Indonesia and Malaysia are home to the most batik artists and craftsmen. Outside of the Malay Archipelago, there are over 1,000 batik artisans still using the art form. The Batik Guild, based in the UK, was established in 1986 to encourage the appreciation of batik and to promote understanding of the art form. The artists at Batik Boutique do our part to further the continuation of batik art by offering classes on batik techniques at our studio in Kala Lumpur.


At Batik Boutique, we are proud to continue the long tradition of such a beautiful and historically rich art form. Our skilled artisans are empowered through their knowledge and mastery of batik, creating intricate and ethical Malaysian fashion, home goods, and gift items. While the art of batik spread to Malaysia before the arrival of Islam, both batik & Islam have remained a huge part of Malay culture. Batik is even considered the national dress of Malaysia and citizens are encouraged to wear batik designs on certain days of the month. In this instance, fashion is seen as both a form of art and part of a historical tradition. At Batik Boutique, our local artisans are committed to providing authentic batik craftsmanship and upholding the traditions of this ancient art form.


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Appreciation – Istanbul Trip Pt.1 – The Blue Mosque

(Updates to this post will be done periodically as apparently, WordPress doesn’t allow for multiple photos and if I do, the post won’t be able to be published)

(Another update – turns out I had to resize my photos 45% smaller to be able to be uploaded here.)

As some of you might know, I was in Istanbul in the end of March and early April of 2017. Istanbul was and still is my dream destination. Istanbul and generally Turkey is a treasure trove of Islamic art and architecture. One might argue that Turkey is the best place to study Islamic art and architecture due to the sheer volume of the sights that are available there, although this would only ring true if you only study the regional Islamic art and architectural style which is Turkish – a rather separate and special entity in the world of Islamic art. You might not find traditionally Arabic or Moroccan Islamic art for example, in Istanbul. This is mainly due to their own art and architecture are essentially defined and very much developed that one can instantly recognize and differentiate the art and architecture of Islamic Turkey and other Islamic art and architecture. The Turkish are also very proud of their identity ; that also helps the Islamic Turkish art and architecture to flourish independently without being chained down to other Islamic art identities.

Istanbul and Turkey in general, given their very extensive history, is not only a mecca of Islamic art and architecture, but also other cultures as well. Before the arrival of the Ottomans, the Romans and then the Byzantines settled in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul. In additional of these cultures, other people came in to settle in Turkey such as the Greeks, the Jews, the Armenians etc especially after the conquest of Constantinople (Old name of Istanbul) making Turkey and in particular Istanbul a melting pot of different cultures that reflects in the art and architecture of Islamic Turkey. I might feature a few samples of these delicate amalgamation of different cultures and how they would reflect in contemporary and historical Islamic Turkish art and architecture.

For this series, I would feature the Islamic art and architecture I found in Istanbul (and other cities I had visited in Turkey) both in chronological order and landmark-by-landmark basis. For this post, I would like to feature one of the most prominent landmark in Istanbul and perhaps the whole of Turkey, the first one I visited  – the six-minaret Sultan Ahmet Mosque or more commonly known to foreigners and visitors and the Blue Mosque.

Completed in 1616, the mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I. The mosque was built in fron the the Hagia Sophia, which by then was still the Imperial mosque of the Ottomans since the conquest of Constantinople. It was referred to as the Blue Mosque because of the 20,000 blue Iznik tiles lining the interior of the mosque. The architect of the mosque was Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, a pupil of the master Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan.  The mosque was staggeringly large and tall and the main dome is so impressive, any and every visitor who came through the threshold of the mosque will instinctively gaze up the heavens to see the majestic main dome of the mosque. The grounds are also breathtakingly beautiful and serene even by the end of the cold winter months. It is said that you can see the mosque from anywhere in Istanbul, and given the sheer size of the monument, it is not difficult to believe in such rumour.

P70327-142149The author in front of the courtyard door of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. The complexity of the pattern is breathtaking

P70327-142217Pardon the awkward pose, this is requested by my friend. The marble six fold pattern in exquisite, and this is the first thing you see when entering the courtyard, if not your gaze to be fixed on the mosque itself.


The facade of the mosque itself. Once you entered the threshold of the mosque’s main gate and into the colonnaded, domed courtyard, this is what will you inevitable see. The gentle, majestic cascading domes of the mosque is quintessentially Ottoman Islamic architectural feature. In the middle of the courtyard there is a small Sardivan (A small water fountain, here serves as an ablution fountain) and here in the mosque’s courtyard there are exhibits about Islam in Turkish and English. The mosque actually serves as an Islamic information centre, where visitors who come to visit the monument can also learn about Islam by attending various Islam related talks as well as reading Islamic books given for free and visiting the exhibits.

DSCN0401.JPGThe interior of the mosque, seen from the front rows of the prayer hall in front of the Mimbar (Pulpit, can be seen here on the right side). All visitors of this grandiose mosque will instinctively gaze heavenwards to the lofty majestic dome as they enter the main prayer hall. The dome seemed to be floating above the worshipers and visitors when in reality it is being held aloft by four thick buttress pillars. The delicate and exquisite blue and red tiles decorating the main hall made the whole scene even more ethereal. One might wonder how the Ottomans can make such beautiful works of art in such a grand sacred space . Below the dome, next to one of the grand buttress pillar is a platform where the muezzin would stand before a prayer and called out the Iqama. This is one of the unique feature of Ottoman mosques, whereas no other mosques in other parts of the Islamic world features the same element.


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Some examples of Islamic geometric motives mosaic in the mosque. These could be found in front of the bay windows of the mosques. Some of them were hidden by the prayer carpet but these were the exposed ones in the mosque.


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Ramadhan Kareem

Just a short post. I wish all of my readers a Happy Ramadhan / Ramadhan Kareem / Selamat Menyambut Bulan Ramadhan / Hayırlı Ramazanlar!

May this month bring you an abundant of blessings from Allah the Almighty, and may it will be fruitful and filled with happiness in the days and beautiful sacredness in the nights 18700064_10155302501164254_3985577594872741477_n

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Oman Cultural Days in Brunei Darussalam Part.2

As you may had read from my previous post, in 2016 we welcomed a delegation of Omanis to Brunei as a part of a celebration of a bilateral relationship between Brunei and Oman.  While here, they displayed numerous amount of artifacts and relics (the historical ones are replicas) pertaining to their cultural and historical identities.

Among of these artifacts are a number of metal or silver items, jeweleries and canes. As with other Arab-Islamic countries the Omani art leans to the usage of geometric pattern and vegetal motifs. All of them are intricately carved and decorated mostly in silver.

Perhaps the most identifiable item of the Omanis are their Khanjars; a hook like dagger worn by men on ceremonies. The dagger can be seen on their emblems as well as their banknotes, and worn by men with a belt in the front center of the body. Being an ornamental item as a part of a traditional attire, it is no surprise that the daggers are decorated richly in silver with beautiful hilts made of bone or even precious stones.

This is one example of a Khanjar, with ornamentation of vegetal and geometric designs. The middle band with large swirling designs looks similar if not exactly like the Bruneian motif ‘Ayer Muleh’, which adds to my suspicion that the motif is actually derived from the Arab world.

IMG_20141113_082931A Khanji twith splendid decorations in silver.

Along with Khanjits being displayed at the event, there are several, perhaps antique, jewelery pieces  made in silver. Among these are anklets, necklaces, rings, bracelets and pectoral jeweleries, richly decorated with silver antique coins called Umla, a widespread way of jewelry making throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.    Coloured beads are used as a part of the jewelry ensemble on some of the items. Some of them are curiously dotted with spikes which gives it a rather frightful appearance. Apparently the spikes, or Boses, was meant to represent breasts and therefore, the jewelry piece in question are meant as a fertility item.  They are, as I had been told and as I can see, were very heavy and quite chunky.

IMG_20141113_083221A pectoral necklace  with small  bells and a moon shaped silver piece and a necklace with a large medallion with Arabic calligraphy with coloured beads.

IMG_20141111_082255More silver necklaces and pectorals decorated with coloured beads

IMG_20141113_083253Large, heavy anklets , silver ‘ spiked’ bracelets and rings.

Canes are also a part of the Omani culture, as they are used for either walking or in dances (as performed by the dancers invited in this event) They too are given attention in regards of the decoration, many of which decorated with carved silver or bones and even precious stones.  They are mostly made of wood, but some are made with ebony with tips decorated in silver with vegetal and geometric motifs as well as polished bone and ivoryIMG_20141113_082855beautifully decorated canes  displayed with other knick knacks.

IMG_20141113_082859The handles and tips of some of the canes, impressively ornamented with fine details.

IMG_20141113_082918A closeup of one of the cane’s decoration, showing flowers and swirly leaf designs, not unlike the ones that can be found in Brunei!

Oman, like other Middle Eastern countries, have a coffee culture. In this exhibition, they pour coffee from silver pots,  under beautiful bedouin tents and low sofas perfumed with copious amount of rosewater  and served with a bowl of Halwa, a traditional sweet made from sugar and rosewater with a little chopped nuts, rendering the dessert sweet and sticky with a rose like odour and dizzying perfume aftertaste. The pots, glasses, rosewater sprinkler, water basins and serving trays are also given the Omani decorative treatment, and as with other silver items being displayed, they too are decorated richly  in exquisite and delicate carvings. The omanis serve and drink their coffee black, but usually with sugar. If no sugar was added to the coffee, then the Halwa  serves as a sweet-but-nauseating perfumed aftertaste.

IMG_20141111_133909Silver serving tray, coffee pot, a water basin to hold hot water and a Halwa bowl, beautifully decorated with carvings

IMG_20141111_133857A closeup on the lid of the Halwa bowl lid exhibiting vegetal motifs

IMG_20141111_133242The silver water basin, again with the swirly leaf design

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Long long hiatus!

Hello, long abandoned blog!

I am very sorry, my followers, for not updating and writing on this blog for a long, long, long time! I feel ashamed for having a great blog but failed to keep it up and running.

Frankly it was because I lost my password to both my WordPress account AND my email I used for this blog! *sigh* anyway I try to keep this blog up and running again, starting with my long overdue Oman exhibition post I had promised.

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Oman Cultural Days in Brunei Darussalam Part.1

I finally obtained the photos I took when I worked as a Liaison Officer for a Cultural showcase from Oman two years ago. As I am currently working for the Ministry of Culture, youth and Sports in Brunei , I was able to join in many, many cultural events that is happening in Brunei, events that I would not be able to participate in, do not have access to or otherwise would not have known should I have not been working here.  I attended cultural exhibitions and shows from China, Japan, Malaysia and for this post, I had the honor of attending a cultural exhibit from Oman, as an exchange between the two ministries of cultures of Brunei and Oman.

As you can read below, the exhibit is held  in honour of the 30th anniverary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Brunei Darussalam and Oman. It was held for four days, from 11 until the 15 of November 2014, at the main hall of the International Convention Centre, Bandar Seri Begawan.


I will split this article into three ; first, this introduction, the second one will be manuscripts and the third one would be artifacts such as jeweleries  and decorative items. As Oman is in the Middle East region, it is suffice to say that the decorative language they have is very similar to their regional neighbours – a lot of vegetal and floral motifs and geometric designs, although theirs are a lot more tribal in design, as one may see in the photos below.

they have a lot of silver (or perhaps, silver plated) utensils and other items  and they are very decorated in various, complicated designs . They set up two miniature tents, one for seating area and one is for henna tattoo area. Inside, they brought coffee pots, a basin in which they discard water, a serving apparatus for serving their Helwa (sweets) , incense burners (enough to fill the hall completely with swell smelling smokes)  and a sprinkler filled with very,very strong smelling rosewater that will not disappear even after 10  washes (apparently, the Omani produced the best rosewater)  All of these are carved with intricate flowery designs.  These designs for these utensils will be featured in the next article.


This is me in one of the tents. As you can see there are low (very low) sofas that forces you to sit crosslegged on the floor they are just literally cushions, oriental carpets,  a table with an incense burner on top (Which is thankfully not lit yet, we are not used to being subjected to such immense amount of sweet smelling smokes) and the curtains, well they are the walls of the tent itself, held up by a metal frame. Believe it or not, the Omanis brought all of these from Oman and given away to the higher ups when they have finished with the exhibit.

During the exhibit, there are other cultural events took place. I had mentioned henna tattoo (mainly for the women) tent, but there are also a  photography exhibit celebrating the relations between the two countries, a massive amount of book collections, mainly regarding Oman and their literary culture (some were in Arabic), artifacts and manuscripts exhibit (most of them are just replicas, including an old copy of a verse of the Qur’an written on a camel bone),Calligraphy demonstation,video playing of Oman tourism, small culinary experience consisting of black, thick Omani coffee and perfumed, spice flavoured Helwas and dates  as well as musical and dance performances.


Stay tuned for the rest of the articles!

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Qatar Museums’ Pattern Canvas Online App

So I recovered *some* of the Oman exhibit photos from my rapidly deteriorating laptop, and I am desperate to find ways on how to get my photos off it before it goes six feet under. Though I did managed to transfer those photos safely to my external hard drive, then WordPress -or rather, my internet connection,- does not allow them to be uploaded to the blog.

Also, Do you remember the thing I posted about crowdfunding thing? Yeah….it’s not going to happen. apparently us Bruneians don’t deserve crowdfunding. The funding I am only entitled to are interest-laden loan schemes offered by the banks. Goodbye, new computer.


Anyway, while waiting for the other photos of the Oman exhibit to come up and be upload-able to the blog, I was lead to yet another fun app on the internet, for you to use for your Islamic Geometric Design needs.

Behold, the Qatar Museums’ Pattern Canvas – Play Designer app. Whew, that’s a mouthful. Please click on the photo to access the app.


What you have here is an offering from the Qatar Museums that allows you to play with a number of geometric shapes – namely triangle, square, circle and diamond – and arrange them on a blank canvas to create a diverse, kaleidoscopic designs of geometrical beauty, or chaos, whichever you choose.

You are offered a number of tools to help you create your masterpieces. You can choose from six different colours for the borders of the shape and the shape themselves, the thickness (or absence of) the borders of the shapes, reflections (or symmetry, as we geometry lovers would have referred to) of the shapes ranging from two to eight reflections, as well as a slider to control the size of the shapes you would like them to appear on the canvas.

While you are drawing on the canvas, you can freeze the shapes drawn on the canvas with a click of the mouse. Unfortunately you cannot choose whether your next pattern can be overlaid on top of the previous drawing or be combined with it – it is always the former. Too bad because it will create a plethora of patterns just with that small little detail.

It is not as robust and as interesting as the Taprats java app I introduced some time ago, but it is a nice distraction and a simple way to create patterns – which, somehow in my case, looks vaguely Islamic, but more of a psychedelic, 60’s 70’s inspired mandala designs, what with all that striking in your face colours.


One of my patterns made with the app. Rather bland, I must say

While you play around with the app, please allow me to rummage through my storage for my Oman photos. It is got to be somewhere…

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