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Sketching Nationalism in Indonesia: Between teachers and Batik Sasambo


Batik has long been well-known in Java. Its reputation increased significantly during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) administration who declared national batik day. This encouraged provinces with no batik tradition before to create batik with its unique local identity. This article aims to map the roles of different agencies from educational institutions in the emergence of the local identity symbol of Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB) province represented by Sasambo batik.

This research shows that cultural policies in Indonesia must consider locality. Local cultural expressions in Indonesia, especially in Eastern Indonesia, are often ‘forced’ to follow what is suggested and brought by actor from different traditions. The situation became more complex when the cultural expression introduced was packaged through the ideology of nationalism, Batik, which was originally part of Javanese culture, has been elevated to become a National culture. Adopting batik as part of national identity is an important cultural strategy considering that the use of batik has spread throughout Indonesia whether we like it or not. The problem is, the presence of batik technology has had an effect on local cloth crafts that use a different concept from batik, such as NTB Ikat weaving.

Ikat woven crafts are made through a long process and are more expensive than making batik, where the preparation and materials are easier to obtain and cheaper. In this case, the woven craftsmen cannot compete economically with those who make batik. Batik is faster and more can be produced. Batik was introduced systematically through the education system, while woven cloth was left as it was.

This research is part of an ethnographic research and the data were collected through observation and in-depth interviews. It was found that teachers play important roles in establishing a good reputation and even competing with the local woven cloth of NTB province. At the same time, there was a struggle over meanings between national and local batik. The ideology of nationalism used by the teachers in the end benefits not only individuals, but also groups, even government.


Sasambo batik, teacher agency, local and national identity, Nusa Tenggara Barat, woven craft



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