Ndalem Gondosuli, modern center for ancient art

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Premium Batik sold to public. (photo: IO/Dessy)

IO, Solo – The large white Art Deco mansion in Laweyan Batik Village strangely fits the cool atmosphere there. It is the venerable Ndalem Gondosuli, the Batik Gallery and Education Building.

KRHT Heru Notodiningrat established this center to educate people in the ancient art of batik tulis (hand-drawn lost wax painting). He seeks to increase the number of practicing artists and preserve the culture. A few years after its inception, Ndalem Gondosuli is the primary destination for tourists seeking to learn how to make their own batik. Students come not just from Solo, but also from Jakarta, Surabaya, and even Malaysia and Singapore.

As a batik gallery, Ndalem Gondosuli focuses on premium products and exclusive designs. It sells batik fabrics, garments, accessories and souvenirs from Solo. The Gallery also contains supporting facilities, i.e. a lounge, digital multimedia batik museum, bunker, classrooms, batik showrooms, meeting rooms and an art space. Therefore, both batik artisans and common people can enjoy and learn from this batik gallery. It is a public space and batik tourism destination in Kampung Laweyan that everyone can access freely.

Meanwhile, Ndalem Gondosuli is a batik educational and development facility. It offers Batik Short Courses for students from elementary school to college, as well as for the general public. It also provides Batik Intensive Course programs for regional batik artisans who want to improve their skills and develop their own batik businesses abroad. It also organizes batik research and development programs for practitioners and academicians.

Kampung Batik Laweyan has been around since the days of the Kingdom of Pajang, about the year 1546. The traditional art of batik, formerly dominated by juragan batik or large batik entrepreneurs, is still alive and well throughout the village. Most of the great houses formerly belonging to these juragan batik are still standing – architectural curiosities that mix the influences of Javanese, European, Chinese, and Islamic cultures in their construction. Each of them is fenced with high walls that make them resemble forts, creating small alleys in the space between them.

The history of batik in Laweyan is inseparable from the achievements of one Mbok (“Mother”) Mase. She has innovated much with Solo batik, such as developing batik cap (stamped lost wax painting) to complement batik tulis in the mid-20th century. This allows batik to be produced more cheaply and faster, making it more accessible to the general public. It has expanded the sales of batik Laweyan greatly since then.

Mbok Mase is an amazing figure. In the days when women were restricted in so many ways, she held her own as a great batik entrepreneur who fully determined financial flow, determined what to produce and how much, and maintained her own batik distribution network. Her legacy remains in both the business and daily living in Laweyan.

Kampung Batik Laweyan, her heritage, is maintained by modern artisans. Laweyan’s art, culture, skills, clothing, traditions, buildings, and folklore all make it a worthwhile tourist destination. (dsy)