Prof. Dr. Hj. Anna Mariana, S.H., M.H., M.BA : Textiles of the Archipelago, our ancestors’ inheritance for Indonesia and the world

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Being born and raised in Solo, Central Java, from parents who were so intimately close with the Archipelago’s textiles, who love them so much that they became patrons of textile artisans and owners of a major textile business, Prof. Dr. Hj. Anna Mariana, S.H., M.H., M.B.A. to has become a textile enthusiast as well.

Such is her love of these heritage textiles ‒ batik, tenun, ikat, songket ‒ that she established the Nusantara Gallery and Boutique House of Marsya in 2000, to sell products made of these exotic fabrics. Other than outfits inspired by traditional Indonesian clothing, she also produces abayas, kaftans, gamises, sajadah prayer mats, bags, shoes, and home and interior decorative products.

House of Marsya’s biggest market is the Middle Eastern countries, followed by America, European countries, United Kingdoms, Malaysia, and Japan in that order. “The Middle East is our biggest market because we sell products that adhere to the Islamic shari’a. They really love our traditional weaving motifs, which represents nothing that has a soul, Anna said.

Anna wryly admits that market opportunity for the Archipelago’s traditional textiles is better abroad than in our own land, as they consider our products to be “exotic” goods that they themselves do not manufacture. Furthermore, our younger generations are not aware of our rich textile heritage. “Therefore, it is our duty to educate our Millennial heirs about the beauties of our domestic products and to love them ‒ including and especially our textiles. We have 34 provinces and thousands of regencies, each with their own characteristic traditional weaves and embroideries. This treasure is what we need to teach and promote everywhere,” she said. 

Anna went on to say that traditional textiles are part of our nation’s identity, that they are a heritage of our ancestors that we must preserve: “We have thousands of islands, each of them producing such different, beautiful motifs unique to that region. Each of these textiles are made by thousands of threads woven tightly with each other to create motifs that represent our ancestors’ higher philosophical ideas. They symbolize the very concept of Indonesia’s national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or Unity in Diversity,” she said. 

Innovations in Archipelago’s textile motifs is absolutely necessary to maintain people’s interest. “We need to innovate according to the era’s progress. However, we need to make sure that the underlying traditional motifs are still preserved behind and under our modifications,” she said. “For example, the frangipani blossom is a characteristic and favorite cloth motif in Bali. Traditionally, this motif only comes in yellow. Our artisans use the same motifs with different colors and brighter shades, or create new motif combinations with the region’s other flora and fauna as an inspiration. We also use other methods of weaving and embroidering that does not detract from the original characteristics.”

Anna patronizes traditional weavers and embroiderers from Sabang to Merauke. However, she had to admit that the pandemic has exerted a negative effect on the nation’s textile business.

“Our production rate has not dropped much, as our artisans can still work in their own private homes. Our number one obstacle is the market: buying power fell more than 50% within the past two years. Allhamdulillah, praised be Allah, business is gradually recovering since the pandemic is coming under control. We also have President Jokowi and First Lady Iriana to thank for always wearing traditional textiles and garments for each national event they attend. They set an excellent example that others follow, which greatly helps textile artisans and the national economy. Remember, for example, the traditional Baduy costume that Mr. President wore to the People’s Consultative Assembly Annual Session back in August 2021. This spurred many Ministers, officials, and socialite to buy Baduy textiles and costumes that the market was positively drained of them,” she said.

Anna went on to explain that traditional textile artisans and businesses across the Archipelago persist in their effort to preserve this heritage and to keep on making better products. “They are spurred by the hope that our Government will support them from upstream to downstream of the business, to help with promotion, production, and distribution. We can only depend on them and on our own citizens to buy more local products, as foreign markets are still volatile and unreliable due to the pandemic. On our part, we keep on pushing our tagline of #bangga_dengan_produk_lokal (“#pride_in_local_products”) as well. By working together like this, we can improve the welfare and prosperity of our artisans, of lifting the level of our Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises. I believe we can do this!” (Des)