Batik fabrics are nets of thin lines of time, telling stories that take us back generations. They tell us the stories of humble people trying to live off what they love, what they know, what they made for you. Technically speaking, batik is a fabric dyeing process using wax to create patterns on fabric. In Kelantan, West-Malaysia, it is the main income source of many families – artisans, block makers and pattern makers.
Syafik Akram (22) is a talented young artisan we have the pleasure to work with – a very shy guy working in the heat among hundreds of batik blocks hung all over the place. A few minutes chat turned into a long conversation, and the shyness turned into sparkling eyes. Syafik is trained in batik, one of the few options of education for young people available in the small village he lives in.
Syafik was born and raised in Kelantan, but moved away from his family in order to deepen his knowledge in batik. These were hard times as he is very attached to his family. Now he is back in Kelantan and doing what he loves. He enjoys waxing and dyeing the fabrics, but his favorite role is creating new patterns – which will be turned into a copper block by an artisan called a block maker.
“A block takes from one to four weeks to produce after I give them the directions of what I need. My ideas come naturally every time I try to fall asleep. It’s all about being inspired by the nature and our surroundings. For example, by looking at a flower I can literally break it down into parts, so I can play with the shapes to create a motif.”
Syafik’s family worked with batik for several generations. His grandmother passed him the responsibility to carry on the batik tradition after his uncle fell sick – the person who introduced him into batik. He admires the work of his uncle, one of the most skilled artisans from Kelantan in his opinion.
(Syafik's treasures - his batik blocks)
Shafik then brought us to a very small room where he keeps his treasures – blocks made from his designs. Among those blocks, a very old one caught our attention. It was a block from his uncle, the only one he was able to save after the place they stored collapsed during flooding. He lamented about it and explained that blocks are becoming scarce as the number of block makers is decreasing rapidly.
(Uncle's last block)
“Batik is a tradition passed from my ancestors. I need to give my best to keep the cultural heritage of batik. My family gave me this responsibility.”
Shafik’s dedication is stamped in his work. His designs are masterpieces, resulting in his responsibility to continue the heritage of his family, of his culture. The Batik Boutique exists to keep the tradition of the batik alive, empower artisans and seamstresses - people like Shafik. Leave a comment showing your love for the amazing people like Syafik who made your clothes.