Asian Civilisations Museum to showcase traditional and contemporary batik designs from Jun 17 to Oct 2

The exhibition, titled Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities, will display archaic and modern batik designs from Singapore and the neighbouring countries.

Kassandra Kasman

Waiting for a Winnie-the-Pooh and Vampire Diaries crossover.

Published: 16 June 2022, 12:34 PM

A new exhibition showcasing over 100 different traditional and contemporary batik textiles from overseas and local lenders will be held at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) from Jun 17 to Oct 2.

Titled Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities, the exhibition is created to celebrate the shared Southeast Asian heritage, according to ACM. It will showcase the history and culture of batik and batik making, as well as explore the ways batik fashion has evolved over the years.

Batik is a technique of decorating textiles by using wax-resistance dye. The designs are normally done by drawing dots and lines or printing with cotton stamps onto cloths.

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will be greeted with a 4m long and 2m wide ceremonial waist cloth, also known as Dodot. It first came to the Raffles Museum, a predecessor of all museums in Singapore, in the 1920s. The Dodot is one of the oldest batiks to date and is commonly used as a garment for wedding couples in central Java.


The white centre field represents the ruler’s spiritual purity and his position in ceremonies. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KASSANDRA KASMAN


After which, visitors will be introduced to the rows of batik scripts hung across the first section of the gallery. These scripts consist of Arabic calligraphy or poems done in the Jakarta dialect of Betawi.

The Arabic scripts are normally seen on ceremonial batik barriers, garments, or even for religious funerals.

The exhibition also displays three loaned batik pieces from the Sonobudoyo Museum in Yogyakarta. These rare pieces provide visitors with the opportunity to appreciate the batiks used in Cirebon, a coast in Western Java.

Besides traditional batiks from Javanese, the exhibition also features textiles that include tiga negeri (three patterns) styles, cloths with seafood and animal motifs, and designs from Chinese-owned workshops.


The exhibition reveals the depth and diversity of batik in Southeast Asia. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KASSANDRA KASMAN


Some of the prominent designs on display are the colourful Nyonya batiks which are made in Chinese-owned workshops in towns along the pesisir.

Additionally, the exhibition will explain how batiks in clothing have evolved from being traditional to contemporary through the showcase of over 10 fashion pieces. 

Tan Sheau Yun, a local fashion designer who specialises in Chinese-inspired clothing, has been regularly exposed to working with batik on Chinese garments. One of her works, in which she combines bold motifs from African Vlisco with a cheongsam, will also be on display in the exhibition.


The fashion pieces on the mannequin include a variation of both traditional and contemporary designs. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KASSANDRA KASMAN


Towards the end of the exhibition, visitors will see a few batik fashion pieces that were worn by politicians. One of such pieces on display is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s red and white Sarkasi Said batik shirt worn at the National Day Parade in 2019 where he was joined by the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.


The purpose of the Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities exhibition is to showcase how batik is being used in various countries and events. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KASSANDRA KASMAN


Visitors can also participate in the batik workshop located in the interpretive space at the Level 2 Foyer of the museum. They can learn about the various materials and tools used in creating a batik as well as the meaning behind certain batik patterns. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, ACM will also host two programmes. The first is the Embracing Batik Weekend Festival which will take place from Jul 22 to 24. The second programme is Crossing of Cultures at ACM: Textiles and Fashion of Asia which will happen from Sep 2 to 4.

The admission fee to the Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities exhibition is $12 for Singaporeans and PRs, and $25 for tourists and foreign residents.

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