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Batik: Exploring Natural Dyes

Batik: Exploring Natural Dyes is an exhibition featuring the vivid colours of natural dyes extracted from locally resourced plants and its application onto Malaysian handmade batik. It highlights stunning shades of red, purple, orange, grey and black derived from such local plants as the root of cheese fruit trees (Morinda Citrifolia/Mengkudu), sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan), mango leaves  (Mangifera indica) and betel nuts (Areca Nut/Buah Pinang). It will also feature a range of blue to green hues, a result of experimentation with indigo dyes from the Indigofera Tinctoria plant that are combined with the yellow extracted from mango leaves.

Featured in the exhibition are a selection of naturally dyed batik pieces handmade by the Kuala Lumpur Natural Dye Association (KLND) in collaboration with two renowned batik makers of Malaysia; namely Kamaliah Ismail Zain and Fern Chua. The former is an established batik artisan and recipient of the 2015 Piala Seri Endon; while the latter is the founder of FERN and winner of MyCreative Ventures’ Fashion Pitch 2013.

Batik: Exploring Natural Dyes is part of a five-year research project aimed to rediscover colours of Malaysia as derived from local plants. Its objective is to revive naturally dyed batik as well as to seek an eco-friendly and sustainable solution for batik making in Malaysia. The research project that began in 2015 is now in its second phase. It has been made possible with the support of the Japan Foundation Asia Center; as well as the consultation of the World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region, Universiti Putra Malaysia and NPO Earth Network Japan. While there have been previous studies on natural dye batik, their focus have been towards the production of colours ranging from browns to yellows that are commonly found in batik production in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia. Batik: Exploring Natural Dyes instead takes the new approach of pushing the boundaries of the craft, exploring other plants that can provide a wider diversity of colours and probing the susceptibility of colourants towards the wax resist technique of batik.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. It opens with a range of vibrant colours on silk; followed by an array of subdued hues displayed on a mixed fabric of raw cotton, commercialised cotton and linen; then a sampling of plant based ingredients used in the making of the colours; before closing with experimental pieces of naturally dyed batik.

Batik: Exploring Natural Dyes is an exhibition that features the results stemming from KLND’s research and experimentation. By no means are the findings here conclusive. It is to be regarded as additional facts and evidence with the hopes of opening more doors for further exploration and testing. Through this exhibition, it is hoped that viewers can get a glimpse into a possible new future of Malaysian batik. Henceforth, KLND as the flagship owners of the research calls out to interested parties from the government, academia or private sectors to join in the efforts of expounding the research objectives and to achieve the vision of reviving Malaysian natural dyes for batik and beyond.

For more information, contact the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur at 03 2284 6228.

Date: 4–22 March, 2017 (closed on 11, 14 & 19 March)
Time: 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily
Venue: The Kuala Lumpur Journal, No. 30 Jalan Beremi, Off Jalan Sultan Ismail Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Admission: Free

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