The Girl In The Green Batik Skirt
To what era past do you feel most connected? Would it be the roaring 20’s jazz-age? The cool ‘beatnik’ generation of the 50’s? The swinging 60’s youth driven cultural revolution? The new wave punk rock era of the 80’s? For me the answer is easy; it is the ‘Hippie’ counterculture movement of the 60’s and early 70’s.
I was a child of the 70’s. My parents, Peter and Leigh were gliding along on the peacetrain, writing their own story of how life should be. My journey began with them. Our home on the Sunshine Coast, Australia rests on a mountainside within a place of pilgrimage to the Indian spiritual master and guru Meher Baba. Life involved sharing stories with friends and family around our 18th century English farmhouse dinner table by flickering candlelight on; spirituality, art, music, literature, travels and any subjects that harnessed freedom of thought and awakening. Life was never dull, rather, happy, creative and carefree.
1982 - Youth from our mountainside home at Meher Baba's place of pilgrimage, Avatars Abode. Mehera far right.
1999 - Meher Baba's Seclusion Hill with my friend Freni, Meherazad, India.
With the freedom to run wild and barefoot in a bohemian environment you may not think fashion was an important factor, it was. The youth along our dusty road had a culture of personal invention. Hand-me-down clothing from our parents was wheeled and dealed as we curated a look that best expressed ourselves and our identity.
1999 - Ajanta Caves with friends, Maharashtra India. 30 rock cut Buddhist cave monuments - 2nd century BCE.
My mother purchased A Green Batik Skirt for herself in the early 70’s from some family friends on the mountain who had embarked on an exciting venture of designing and importing clothing from Indonesia and India called 'Bali Sky'. She elegantly graced the mountain with her luscious auburn hair, and her natural style.
Mum gave me the skirt or I secretly adopted it, I can’t remember! I fell in love with the beautiful green colour, intricate stylised floral pattern, A-line design with delicate coconut shell buttons from the exotic islands of Indonesia. I was intrigued, this was my first encounter with the textile known as 'batik'.
1970's batik tulis textile swatch - Vintage A-line green batik skirt with coconut shell buttons and stylised floral motifs.
My new hand-me-down in custody, I sought to understand what batik was.
I discovered ‘batik’ is a Javanese word meaning ‘to write’ or a word for a series of ‘dots’ or ‘points’. It is the art of hand drawing with hot wax using an instrument called a Cantin. The wax-resist patterns on cloth are dyed to form negative patterns. The artist repeats this technique in multiple stages to build up a decorative colour scheme.
Wax-resist canting tools - An artist hand-drawing with a canting tool a wax-resist design - Early 60's, ladies making batik, Pekalongan, Java.
I was fascinated to discover that the origins of batik are unknown. Recordings date back over one thousand years throughout the world; Ancient Egypt, Africa, Persia, India, Turkey, China, Japan and Indonesia. It was in Indonesia, in the Javanese royal courts that this textile technique was developed to its elite artistry and height of symbolism.
Batik symbology and meaning.
Kawang palm blossom emanates wisdom, purity and honesty - Parang sword motif embodies positive protective powers - Cendrawasih bird of paradise connects earth and heaven - Vintage batik tulis with flower, vine and leaf motifs express harmony within nature.
I was the proud “owner” of an item of clothing that wasn’t just a fashion statement. The designs were packed with meaning, symbology, culture and history. Every colour and motif told stories of community, spirituality and heritage. My life changed forever!
Do you have your own version of my Green Batik Skirt? A memento in your life that you love? Something reminding you of a happy time, assisting on your journey of self discovery?
I still have my green batik skirt and its meaning is treasured in my royal court, Paradise Road, globally inspired luxury bedding.
2021 - Family lunch with Viren, Malia and Layla at Frida's Field, Nashua, Byron Bay.