An Impromptu and Vibrant Batik Session Near Malioboro Street
Doesn’t take much planning to paint on a sidewalk
My husband and his friends are a bunch of artists. They decided to set up camp on a street near Malioboro in Yogyakarta. They wanted to offer a free batik workshop, and have some fun in the meantime. My husband and I brought the batik color, some elastic and canvas and other friends brought paintbrushes and other supplies. I went along because I like photographing batik artists.
Batik is wax-resist dying, usually on fabric. It is a complicated process and can have many colors, created by waxing over each layer of color. However, the guys were using the batik in more of a tie-dye process this time. They had cups of different colors set up and started applying the color to canvas with paint brushes.
Indonesians don’t really treat public property the way people in some other countries do. My husband and his friends set up camp on a public sidewalk and had no problem from anyone. The owner of the business behind where they were working did come out momentarily to ask them not to paint over his name on the wall, but other than that, no one asked any questions.
Puput, one of my husband’s friends, found some bones on the ground, maybe from someone’s soup stall or perhaps dragged there by a dog. He used them to hold the canvas he was working on in place. The guys found the base of an umbrella stand and wrote “Batik Workshop” on it. It started to get dark and the guys painted, while they waited for interested people to try batik painting.
Maybe we needed more hype men
As more families started to pass by, heading to Malioboro to eat or shop, my husband and his friends tried to entice them to paint. But no one would take the bait, despite the guys letting them know it was free. People didn’t want to stop and try. Although kids seemed interested, their parents wanted to keep moving.
The guys made hairbows with strips of painted fabric and elastic that they sewed into circles. They gave a few away to passing kids.
Finally, one kid’s parent decided to let her try painting. What a breakthrough. But really, the guys didn’t have expectations for the night. They just had fun squatting, smoking, painting, chatting, and eating snacks from the angringkan.
Photographing the men
I found easy to photograph the men working. They were engrossed in what they were doing and didn’t mind me photographing. I knew some of the men, but some I had just met that evening. If they did look up while I was photographing them, I would give a reassuring smile to let them know I wasn’t dangerous.
In retrospect, I wish I would have taken more photographs of their hands working.
Beauty in creating art together
Although at the time, this seemed like another unremarkable (but fun) evening in Yogyakarta, now that I am not in Indonesia, I remember that not everyone gets to spend their time like this.Some people never make time for creativity, or their culture or social circle doesn’t value it. It’s fun to be able to gather a group of your friends, a few materials, and go make art together.