batik bətēk´ [key], method of decorating fabrics practiced for centuries by the natives of Indonesia. It consists of applying a design to the surface of the cloth by using melted wax. The material is then dipped in cool vegetable dye; the portions protected by the wax do not receive the dye, and when the wax is removed in hot water the previously covered areas display a light pattern on the colored ground. Remains of clothing found in Java indicate that the same or similar patterns have been in use for about 1,000 years and are handed down in families. Certain designs were traditionally reserved for royalty and high officials. Motifs are geometric or are based on conventionalized natural objects. Cotton cloth is generally used, and some silk. Batik was first brought into Europe by Dutch traders. In the 19th cent., Western artisans adopted the art.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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