NINI TOWOK’S SPINNING WHEEL: CLOTH AND THE CYCLE OF LIFE IN KEREK, JAVA

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By Rens Heringa

In 1976 Dutch textile specialist Rens Heringa, then a resident of Indonesia, first visited Kerek in rural East Java and discovered there a last holdout, a region where—unlike the rest of Java—the full range of textiles with woven patterning, as well as the only batik still made on handwoven cotton cloth, continued to be produced for local use.

Moreover, each type of cloth made in Kerek is created for a specific purpose—to be worn by a person of a particular age, social, or residential group; to serve in life-cycle events such as marriage or funerals; to act as a focal point in agricultural ceremonies or curing rites. The functions, techniques, patterning, and especially the color combinations of the cloth all form part of a highly structured and elaborate system of belief that is remarkably integrated with the community’s social organization, mythology, and ritual practices. Remnants of similarly integrated systems of belief are known from many parts of Java, but by the late twentieth century the full system could be observed only in Kerek. Batik from Kerek today probably represents the most direct descendant of the earliest North Coast styles, which were antecedents of both the courtly and urban batik found in collections around the world. Rens Heringa has dedicated her career to documenting and analyzing the remarkable cloths of Kerek—traditions that are fundamental to understanding the textile history of Java.

9 x 12 inches, 99 pages
110 color illustrations, 3 maps
2010
Textile Series, No. 9
$25.00

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