Thursday, 16 February 2023

Sri Lanka Batik industry

Sri Lanka Batik industry
The Batik industry in Sri Lanka (Sinhala: ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ බතික් කර්මාන්තය) is a traditional industry engaging in producing distinctive wall paintings/curtains and garments such as sarees, shirts, sarongs, lungis and beachwear well-suitable for tropical climates. The majority of batik production is carried out by small and medium-scale business holders based in home industries in the country (Wijayasenarathne & Thushari, 2022).

Batik as an industry
Batik was introduced as an industry to Sri Lanka in 1960 by a lady named Soma Udabage who learned about it in Indonesia in 1959 (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). Following her, several people including Vipula Dharmawardena, Ena de Silva, and Keerthisena took into batik designing (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). The Batik industry reached its peak in the 1970s and had good appeal mainly from tourists visiting Sri Lanka (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). However, the industry started to decline when the Sri Lankan government adopted open economic policies and allowed the free import of textiles in 1977 (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). It further deteriorates with the beginning of the Sri Lankan civil war in 1983 which resulted in the collapse of the tourism industry (Ruwanpathirana, 2012).

The batik-making has grown in Sri Lanka since its introduction in the 20th century from Indonesia and developed its own unique style.  Local talents resulted in putting new ideas into this foreign art creating its own identity. Presently, many designs used for Batik making mainly represent key traditions and symbols of the country's history and predominantly Buddhist culture (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). As a result of this, the Sri Lankan Batiks have obtained an indigenous outlook that deviated from its original Indonesian culture.

Batik techniques 
Sri Lanka Batik industry
Batik which is of Javanese origin is considered a resist dyeing technique applied mainly to textile fabrics to produce colourful designs. It was not an art practised in ancient Sri Lanka although there are some traditional clothes similar to Batik such as Somana, a particular garment worn by the chieftains during the Kandyan Period. However, Somana did not follow the wax process, instead used vibrant colours mixed with some form of formula to retain the colours on the fabric (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). 

Most of the Sri Lankan batiks are printed on 100% cotton poplin fabrics using traditional methods (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). Tjanting tools and brushes are used for waxing while all the designs are drawn by the hands of Batik artists (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). Stamping, templates, or pens are not used even for repeated design motifs (Ruwanpathirana, 2012). To hold the fabric while the wax is applied, ordinary wooden frames are used with pins.

Batik production often involves the use of synthetic dyes such as Naphthol and VAT which are used for colouring the patterns drawn on the fabrics (Wijayasenarathne & Thushari, 2022).

1) 20180307-DSC00388 by Robert Lee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
2) 20180307-DSC00387 by Robert Lee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

1) Ruwanpathirana, U.S., 2012. Potential of upgrading Sri Lankan Batik industry. Doctoral dissertation: Department of Textile and Clothing Technology, University of Moratuwa. pp.1-2,6-11,55.
2) Wijayasenarathne, H. and Thushari, I., 2022. Blue and Grey Water Footprint Assessment: A Case Study from a Small-Scale Batik Industry in Sri Lanka. pp.221-223.
This page was last updated on 16 February 2023


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