Batik Timeline


Batik Timeline

1400-1900 – Batik is traded extensively in South East Asia from the 15th century, and Javanese coastal batik is imported into Malaya well into the 19th century.

1911 – Haji Ishak bin Haji Che Su, the pioneer of batik production in Malaya, starts a batik-making workshop in Kota Bahru, Kelantan.

1910s-1920s – Artists in the West influenced by Art Nouveau start producing batik paintings with narratives.

1900 – Dutch artist Chris Lebeau uses batik to create the cover design for Louis Couperus’ novel De Stille Kracht, set in Java.

1930 – A group of Malay and British officers establish an Arts and Craft Association in Kelantan.

1946 – Chuah Thean Teng starts a batik manufacturing business with his relative Chuah Thean Siang.

1947 – Chuah Thean Teng’s batik business fails, leaving him with a large stock of clothes and imported dyes. He begins to experiment with new artistic approaches in batik.

1950 – Protectionist policies such as increasing import duty on ‘foreign sarongs’ are introduced by the British State Secretaries in Terengganu and Kelantan to protect the local batik industry from ‘foreign competition’

September 1955 – With the support of librarian Patricia Lim, Teng holds his first solo batik painting exhibition at the Penang Library.

March 1956 – Frank Sullivan, patron of Malayan arts and culture, supports Chuah Thean Teng’s second solo exhibition at the British Council Hall in Singapore. Batik painting is duly described as a fine art form.

1957 – Chuah Thean Teng holds his third solo exhibition, in Kuala Lumpur. Teng’s exhibition at the capital of the Federation is significant, as this is also the year that Malaya achieves independence.

January 1959 – Chuah Thean Teng is chosen by the Malayan government to display his work in a solo exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

1960 – By the 1960’s, the number of artists exhibiting batik artworks has grown significantly.

1960 – The Federation of Malaya’s RIDA (Rural Industrial Development Authority) begin establishing batik factories in rural areas to boost the textile industry and create job opportunities.

February 1965 – Chuah Thean Teng’s stature and popularity reach their zenith. A solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery of Malaysia features 125 of his paintings and pays tribute to Teng as ‘the creator of Batik Painting as a fine art’.

April-May 1965 – Chuah Thean Teng is awarded a British Council fellowship and is invited to hold a second solo exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

1966 – MARA (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) is established, replacing RIDA as the main agency to develop the batik cottage industry.

1967 – Fears that Malaysian batik cannot compete with the cheaper imported batik textiles results in an increased effort to promote locally produced batik. The media and MARA (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) step up to help the Bumiputera cottage industries compete globally, actively marketing Malaysian batik overseas, especially those made by East coast batik manufacturers.

February 1968 – Member of Parliament Wan Kadir Ismail suggests the adoption of batik as a uniform for all government officers in a Dewan Rakyat sitting, to boost local batik production. Some departments start having a ‘batik day’ each week.

January-March 1968 – Batik Painting is one of the five prize categories in the first Salon Malaysia Art Competition. Organised by the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, the inclusion of Batik Painting indicates broad recognition of batik as a fine art medium.

1968 – The National Art Gallery of Malaysia presents An Exhibition of Batik Design and Art.

1968 –Joseph Tan creates ‘Love Me in My Batik’, a collage batik artwork that comments on the cultural frenzy that had gripped Malaysian popular culture.

August 1971 – Following the race riots of May 13 1969, the National Cultural Congress is held at the University of Malaya, and a National Cultural Policy is formulated as a cultural framework for Malaysia.

December 1971 – Priests and altar boys of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ipoh wear batik vestments to celebrate the Christmas Eve’s Mass. Reverend Father Murphy Pakiam notes that, ‘we are evolving a national culture to express ourselves as Malaysians.’

1971 – Indonesian artist Amri Yahya writes his undergraduate thesis at Yogyakarta’s Teachers Training College, entitling it Batik Art as a Means to Increase Contemporary Art Appreciation.

1972 – Amri Yahya establishes Amri Gallery to showcase his work, which is subsequently expanded into a personal museum. Yahya is instrumental in the promotion of batik painting, and helps to organise the earliest group exhibitions of batik painting in Indonesia, including ‘14 Batik Painters’ in Jakarta (1973).

May 1973 – The Malaysian Handicraft Board (Lembaga Kraftangan) is established.

1974 – Complaints from the traditional batik makers of Kelantan to the Malaysian Handicrafts Board (Lembaga Kraftangan) increase. Charges are levelled against factory made ‘batik tiruan’, which is threatening traditional makers’ livelihoods. The Handicrafts Board limits batik production to Bumiputra only, and actively helps export their products. 

1975Batik in Singapore is written by Constance Sheares and published by the National Museum of Singapore.

October 1979 – The Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation (Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia) replaces the Malaysian Handicraft Board to strengthen the growth and development of the batik industry.

1980 – Fatimah Chik begins exhibiting her batik artworks, drawing on research into the textile traditions of Southeast Asia to produce abstract motifs, evoking the region’s rich and complex cultural history.

1980s – Batik painting’s pre-eminence as a medium with cultural impact and significance gradually wanes.

1993 – Lee Kian Seng is awarded the Tokyo Creation Award Overseas Prize for his role in having ‘developed batik into a modern art’ and having ‘made known worldwide batik/dyes painting’.

1999 – Fatimah Chik is invited to participate in the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane, Australia. Three of her batik artworks are featured at the international exhibition.

2003 – Piala Seri Endon is established as a prize competition to recognise Malaysian batik-making talent.

2004 – The National Art Gallery of Malaysia organise Revival: Evoking the Batik Tradition, a three-man exhibition featuring Chuah Thean Teng, Khalil Ibrahim and Tay Mo Leong.

2005 – Galeri PETRONAS organises Batik Painting & Painting Batik exhibition.

2008 – Malaysian batik painting pioneer Chuah Thean Teng passes away.

2008 – The National Art Gallery of Malaysia organises Teng: An Appreciation, a posthumous retrospective of Chuah Thean Teng’s artworks.

2014 – Bank Negara organises Drops of Colour (Titisan Warna), an exhibition that features ‘batik painting’ and ‘painting batik’.