The Fabric of History in Museum Tekstil

by Pingkan Palilingan and Anita Suparta
28th May 2015
Whether you think you know batik or not, a visit to Museum Tekstil Jakarta could never go wrong.

Batik is for parents, teachers and Mr President. At least, that’s exactly what our mindset was like before another country strode into the picture and claimed that batik is theirs; not ours. What ensues afterwards was a public outrage. Never before have the Indonesian citizens went all gung-ho to reclaim our cultural heritage. And, boy, aren’t we young people ever so skilful at defending something? We reinvent the textile so that young people would be keen to wear one, and voila, batik is no longer a novelty.

But wouldn’t it be awfully embarrassing if we don’t have a clue about the origin of the batik motifs we are wearing? That’s why, a visit to Textile Museum is a must. Located in Tanah Abang, Museum Tekstil Jakarta bears the mission to preserve Indonesian textile. Founded almost 40 years ago, the area is a patchwork of buildings, pendopo (cottage) and garden – all forming a picture that is reminiscent of a private residence during the colonialism era.

The museum prides itself upon its rich textile collection that ranges from batik, weavings (kain tenun), all the way to contemporary fabrics. A stroll in the main building would reveal thousand strands of coloured thread, all sourced from all corners of our country and dated up to 60 years ago. As such, it would be absolutely wrong to expect oneself to find repeating motifs that are etched on all textiles. One would find, among the quirkiest, batik that tells a glimpse of Indo-Chinese history and an intriguing account of seafarers who were enthralled by our country’s wealthy resources.

And an afternoon spent with batik tulis lesson in Pendopo Batik is the cherry on top of the whole tour. Students would be given samples of batik patterns to be drawn on their own fabric, using a particular kind of batik wax. Don’t worry about screwing up, because there’s no grade. If you happen to make a blunder, you can always add more patterns to make it look intentional. Once the painting finished, the museum staffs will help you to dye the fabric. Even though it doesn’t turn out quite like what you’ve imagined, you will still bring home a sense of appreciation for the intricacies that go into making batik tulis.

Should you wish to have a nice departure from your daily routine, Textile Museum would be a delightful place to start. Before it’s too late. Who knows, someone might want to claim our textile again one day; for you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. However cliché it may sound.


Museum Tekstil Jakarta 

Jl. Aipda Ks Tubun No.2-4, Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat

+62 21 5606613


Operational Hours

Monday and Public Holidays: Closed

Tuesday to Sunday                  : 9am-3pm