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Tuesday, May 31, 2011 www.thejakartaglobe.com/features

History book traces the hands that shaped Bali’s art capital

Singapore is going Hollywood

City Beat C6

  > Features C3

Fine Cuts for Balinese Cloth

Piece Of Mind Tita Alissa Listyowardojo

In the Netherlands, Robbed of Empathy

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‘Pelangi Tenun Bali’ is helping to weave traditional handmade textiles into the modern fashion world Report Sylviana Hamdani

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ome of the main highlights of the elegant interior of Kembang Goela restaurant in South Jakarta are the lush, exotically patterned fabrics hanging on the walls. Some feature delicately ornate floral motifs. Others are adorned with a design resembling vibrant electric waves. While the richness and intricate details of the designs are reminiscent of the cloths produced for Italian high fashion houses, all of them were handwoven in Bali. “So many motifs and symbols are born on the island,” said Ike Nirwan Bakrie, chairwoman of Rumah Pesona Kain, an association of lovers and collectors of Indonesian traditional textiles. “It’s a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the Balinese people.” RPK, founded in September 2005, aims to develop public awareness of Indonesian textiles, and in particular preserve traditional textile arts. Until June 14, RPK, in collaboration with Kembang Goela, is presenting “Pelangi Tenun Bali” (“Rainbow of Balinese Handwoven Textiles”). The event features a Balinese textile exhibition as well as a Balinese food festival at the restaurant. The event opened on Wednesday with a fashion show by five highly talented Indonesian designers — Ari Seputra, Auguste Soesastro, Ghea Panggabean, Oscar Lawalata and Tuty Cholid — who presented their creations made from Balinese handwoven textiles. “We selected these designers based on their talent at designing stylish modern clothes using traditional textiles,” Ike said. “We’ve asked them to create something brand new out of traditional Balinese cloth.” A total of 30 outfits were featured at the fashion show. But instead of professional models, some of Jakarta’s socialites walked the runway to model the outfits. “We wanted to create a more relaxed and friendly ambience for guests,” Ike said, explaining the decision not to use professional models. Senior fashion designer Ari, inspired by the beautiful costumes of Balinese dancers, presented pareos (wraparound skirts) made of handwoven silk songket, a kind of cloth that is intricately patterned with gold or silver thread, from Singaraja in northern Bali. “I decided not to cut any of the songket as I truly appreciate the long and complex process involved in weaving them,” he said. Ari combined his pareos with light chiffon tops and Shantung silk blouses. Embellished with golden

‘Pelangi Tenun Bali,’ an exhibition of Balinese textiles, runs until June 14 in South Jakarta. It features the work of five Indonesian designers — Ari Seputra, Auguste Soesastro, Ghea Panggabean, Oscar Lawalata and Tuty Cholid — who incorporate traditional Balinese textiles into their creations.  JG Photos/ Sylviana Hamdani

beads on the necklines and shoulders, the blouses complemented the lustrous and elegant songket. “All international designers are returning to their roots and using traditional materials in their creations these days,” he said. “Indonesia is already rich with beautiful traditional textiles. So why don’t we use them in our modern fashion creations?” Young up-and-coming designer Soesastro chose the handwoven silk songket from Negara, in western Bali, for his creations. “Songket Negara is very beautiful,” the 29-year-old designer said. “It incorporates golden and silver threads to make neat

geometrical patterns that run throughout the cloth.” A simple long dress by Soesastro seemed to bewitch the audience at the fashion show. Made entirely of silvery songket Negara, the dress flashed and glimmered, reflecting a variety of beautiful colors and patterns, under the soft glow of the restaurant’s lights. Veteran fashion designer Ghea chose the old and sacred motifs of bebali cloth from Tenganan Pegringsingan village, about 65 kilometers from Denpasar, for her outfits. “The actual cloth is sacred and only worn twice a year in the village during religious ceremonies,” she said. “The process of making it is so intricate and difficult that it took one weaver more than 10 years to make a particular piece.” For the show, the designer worked with traditional weavers to create similar designs within three to six months. “We combined the traditional technique of double ikat [tie dye] weave and prints to make these patterns,” she said. Ghea’s multilayered bustier dress, in particular, captured the audience’s attention during the fashion show. Combined with an ornate filigree necklace and tiara, the A-line dress was feminine and elegant. Fashion designer Oscar presented a baju kurung (loose-fitting blouse) and a kebaya (tight-fitting women’s traditional blouse) featuring traditional motifs — geringsing cempaka from Tenganan Pegringsingan village and cepuksari from Nusa Penida, a small island off the southeastern coast of Bali. “These motifs are our traditional heritage,” Oscar said. “Each of them has a different meaning and symbolism.” > Continued on C2

aving been immersed in the relatively individualistic culture of the Netherlands for many years, I have grown comfortable in the country’s cultural framework. I have grown to enjoy my “me time” and drawing stricter boundaries regarding how people and I should interact. This means I may not appreciate unexpected guests knocking on my door. I will not feel guilty about inviting select friends to my birthday parties — without hiding the fact from other friends. Privacy is important to me and those who cross the line can expect me to be distant. I have seen many positive outcomes from this attitude, like not having to worry about others meddling in my personal life. But I never realized how vulnerable and isolated such a cultural attitude could make me feel until I needed help. It started with a day trip to a southern Dutch city. Everything went great until I had to take the train from the Schiphol Airport back to my home city in the north. Two stops from Schiphol, three passengers got on the train and walked by my seat. I sensed something wrong and immediately checked if my backpack was still beside me — but it was gone. I jumped up and yelled as loud as I could that someone had stolen my bag. I saw the thief running to the other end of the car and I chased him through the packed train. When he was only a few meters in front of me, my path was suddenly blocked by another man — one of the thief’s accomplices. At the next stop, they ran out, leaving me frantically pressing the emergency button so I could open the doors as the three thieves outside forced them shut. Of course, they won. I stared at their shadows through the glass as the train started to move. As dramatic as it was, I was not an emotional wreck afterward. I was reeling less from the loss of my bag as from the realization that I was alone. I walked down the aisle and cried helplessly that the men had stolen my valuables, including my laptop, wallet and a birthday present. Only two women showed concern. After asking whether anyone could recall any of the thieves’ physical features for my police report, two other passengers spoke up. One said that one of men was wearing a cap and one had a big mole on his right cheek. But it felt like nobody really cared about what had just happened to me. The conductors I complained to at the next stop told me that I should have pulled the emergency brake. But if I had pulled it, what would I have done next? Continue chasing three burly thieves late into the night? Take them down using martial arts? Since nobody tried to help me, I don’t think I would have been able to retrieve my backpack or defend myself if the three men attacked me. What if they had a knife? I often wonder how differently things would have turned out if I were on a train in Indonesia and three men tried to take my bag. Other passengers who would have immediately reacted to my cries for help. When I was a regular passenger on the Parahyangan train from Jakarta to Bandung, I once saw passengers stop a thief before he jumped off the car with two stolen bags. Another time, I was in my seat when, out of nowhere, a rock smashed through the window next to me. It was definitely traumatic, but my fellow passengers immediately asked me if everything was alright and if they could do anything for me. They offered me food and drink, trying to calm me down. This collective response against wrongdoing and Indonesians’ unquestioning kindness always made me feel safe in crowded places. But after getting robbed in the Netherlands, however, this sense of safety has been completely shattered. In this foreign land, I feel like I will be left alone to deal with petty criminals such as train thieves or pickpockets. I get goose bumps whenever I ask myself, “What if I became the victim of a more serious crime? Will anyone here help me? Would I be forced to defend myself again, alone, even if I am surrounded by people in a public place?”

I cried that the men had stolen my things. Only two women showed concern.

Tita Alissa Listyowardojo is a researcher based in the Netherlands.


Robbed of emphaty