Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
There’s a high demand for batik. With world’s Batik Day on the 2nd of October and some offices obligate their employees to wear it every Friday, batik becomes one of the most sought out material in the Indonesian market. Trusmi batik is amongst them. It’s one of the most likable kind considering the bright colors compared to most of the Central Java batik. Hence, when in Cirebon, it’s most likely that you’ll find yourself in Trusmi Village, home of Trusmi Batik.
“I can take you there,” the becak driver told us. Oh Mr. Becak Driver I heart you! Becaks are the next best way to meander around Trusmi Village, after walking. The small alleys, home to local batik workshops, can best be ventured slow as there are many things to see if you only look a little closer. Trusmi Village is located behind the glamorous stores and boutiques that sell the end product. If you’re looking to meet the people behind it all and get a slightly cheaper price, than in the alleys is where you need to be.
The small alleys of Trusmi Village are filled with small workshops making the colorful batiks. Where and how precisely, is a matter of just stopping at some random place that looks like it has a workshop or simply trusting the becak driver.
“Let’s take a picture!” I said to the four young girls coming out from a small side door once the becak driver stopped. I would think young girls loved to take photos. They laughed shyly, especially when Windy vogue-ed oddly. Apparently, the openly confident teenagers aren’t really applicable everywhere. Some teenagers are still a bit timid. Bidding farewell, still a bit shy they left us. The becak driver pointed to the door where they came out and in we entered.
It was one of the smaller Trusmi batik workshops I’ve seen. The batik station was only for four people, circling one pot of wax. Outside was a small rinsing and washing station. As far as I can see, that was just it. Pak Udin, owner, didn’t look too puzzled finding two girls poking around his workshop. He looked unready for guest being shirtless and all. Usually, when people are taken to workshops, they are expected to buy something from it. However, the day was a little too late and seems like the shop didn’t have any finished products. We were free from awkward offers.
On the corner, one of his remaining workers had just finish rinsing and getting ready to head home. His hands colored of unnatural orange and red.
“Every (working) day,” he answered to my question about frequency of colored hands. It’s just a part of the job. He washes them clean everyday and heads home to eat with them. He didn’t look like he minded. My thoughts wonder to his health and the waste that comes out of every workshop of the area, but I thought I shall not judge with such little observation.
I’ve always known that a lot is put into batiks but seeing his hands colored so boldly reminded me just how much was put into a piece of cloth. Honestly, I was pretty surprised seeing how this small workshop produces such colorful batiks. I really liked their production, even those that were half finished. Shockingly, each piece cost only about USD 10. Seriously?!
Apparently it’s accustomed to take people to Trusmi’s grave when visiting the village. For me, I was all ‘grave of who what now?’
Trusmi is the name of the village founder, man that started the whole batik culture. He’s said to be Sundanese royalty, first son of the king Raden Siliwangi. This wasn’t his real name, but Ki Buyut Trusmi or great grandpa Trusmi became the name he was known for. The name sounds like ‘trust me’. Since he was a prince, I would’ve thrown myself at him and trust my life *damsel in distress pose*. However, the name came from the words ‘trus’ and ‘semi’, which mean growing and perfect. So, Trusmi kinda means growing to perfection. I think that’s pretty appropriate for fashion, don’t you?
Trusmi had a vision that the village would and should be able to stand on its own in the future. He developed batik pattern and industry within the area, having locals produce the cloth to then sell them. The rest is as his vision, the people have been producing batik and become one the most known batik in the country. Ki Buyut Trusmi is a visionary man, no wonder the locals still guard his grave sacredly.
Interestingly, only chosen people guard Great Grandpa Trusmi’s grave. These are descendants of Trusmi and descendants of his entourage. Despite that Trusmi taught Islam to the local people, his guardians wear uniform unlike most Moslems we see today; almost bare-chested with a head cover unlike a turban. Mostly wear monochrome cloth or batik Trusmi.
Another intriguing thing about the grave complex is that it’s home to people (mostly men) that seek peace and want to become a better person. Usually, these men are the troublemakers back where they came from and have traveled or forced to travel to Cirebon purposely to change their behavior. Men come to meditate by living and helping around the grave with repairs and chores, and on certain days they have the Memayu, a big semi celebration where the meditating men repair parts in large portions of the grave and people come and donate food and goods for them.
It’s something that’s been going on for a long time and something that might be a lot better than prison. You’re institutionalized amongst the people with the doors open to the outside world and you’re actually accepted by the locals, not exiled. I don’t know what Trusmi said to make the locals accept these potential criminals, but it seems he saw something in them as he did to the whole village. If this is a legacy from Trusmi, then God bless him.
Just a little information, the Mega Mendung parttern or giant clouds, are one of Trusmi’s most known patterns to date. You can see them on the walls of the shops and almost every store has a cloth in this pattern.
There are traces of the Mega Mendung clouds in there. Can you see them?
Interestingly, this pattern seemed to first pop up on a presumably Chinese princess from the Qing Dynasty. Seems like it was brought in along with the Chinese culture from the princes that married Trusmi’s younger brother, Fatahillah. Allegedly. Now, it’s become one of Cirebon’s pride patterns.
Just so you know, the cloud patterns should be going horizontally and not vertically.
That’s a mouthful about Trusmi Batik. All I need now is a tailor to sew up all my Trusmi Batiks. D’oh!