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BATIK: what is it?

Updated: Jan 26

un batik africain : femme et bébé dans le dos

Today, I would like to talk to you about a fabric that is found a lot in Ivory Coast, and in West Africa in general. But the manufacturing technique does not come from there. This fabric is Batik. I love these designs and these colors, the contrast with the white line left by the wax...

And I love seeing the artisans make it : working with wax, then dye, then wax, then dye... It takes a lot of technique and patience to get there ! And for a truly incredible result !

What is Batik ?

Meaning "written in wax", batik is an artisanal technique of fabric printing which is mainly found in the regions of West Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Where does Batik come from?

Most people think of Southeast Asia when they hear the word "batik", and indeed the word derives from several Malay words. However nations as diverse as Japan and India have had their own versions of the tradition. Batiks have been as good as gold for much of history, and were eagerly traded between Asian neighbors as early as the seventh century.

When did it arrive in Africa?

The story says that the "Belanda Hitam", meaning "Black Dutch" in Malay, introduced batik to West Africa in the mid-19th century after serving as an indentured soldier for the Dutch in Indonesia. Returning from their 15-year conscription, legend tells us that the men brought back trunks of quality Javanese batik, covered in opulent and fine designs that captured the imagination of their friends and relatives. It's a great story, but unfortunately, of the 3,080 recruits from 1831-1872, only a handful returned to West Africa... And those who managed to return generally returned empty-handed: recruits were only paid once they arrived at their final port, which would have made purchasing souvenirs quite difficult.

How is Batik made ?

Batik is a wax-resistant dyeing technique that originated in Indonesia. In fact, it is the same manufacturing principle as wax fabric, except that it is entirely done by hand (and not with rollers of wax, in an industrial way) The technique consists of creating prints by waterproofing certain parts of the fabric that you want to preserve from the dye using hot wax. - The dye is applied to the fabric using a brush or simply by dipping it in one or more dye baths. - We remove the wax by melting it so that only the uncoated parts become colored. This step allows the patterns to appear thanks to the contrast produced between the original color and the dye. - The duration of the batik manufacturing process can vary between a week to several months depending on the number of colors, its patterns and its size...

fabrication du batik : pose de la cire chaude

We first apply the hot wax to the parts that we do not want to dye...

fabrication du batik : pose de la teinture au pinceau

Then, we apply the dye with a brush to the places where we did not apply the wax...

fabrication du batik : pose de la teinture

You can also dip the fabric directly in a dye bath when the surface to be colored is larger. The parts where the wax has been placed will not be dyed.

fabrication du batik : séchage au soleil

We repeat this step as many times as there are colors to apply... Then we rinse the fabric and let it dry in the sun.

fabrication du batik :séchage au soleil

Comment est utilisé le Batik ?

Mainly for decoration: cushions, paintings, curtains, bedspreads...

But also for clothes.

I hope you enjoyed this article about Batik ? Do not hesitate to comment this post !

If you want to learn more about African fabrics, it's here :

And if you just want to discover the rest of my blog, it's here :

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