Batik Is Safe – What About UNESCO?

Unlike the Dodo who became a tasty meal for hungry mariners of old – the beautiful art of Indonesian Batik will not fade from existence, despite the pressures of staying relevant in a mass-produced world.

This is partly thanks to UNESCO, who recently declared the tradition as an Intangible cultural heritage of Indonesia.  This means several things:

  • Batik is now officially recognized as belonging to Indonesia.
  • It now has the official protection of the Indonesian government.
  • There is heightened awareness for the art form, plus renewed interest in it’s preservation.

Fantastic news for Batik, and the long list of other endangered art forms that UNESCO has helped to preserve and promote awareness for.

On the front lines of the battle against  mass-production is NOVICA artisan Yuni Kristina (left).  She specializes in Pekalongan Batik, and is one of many producers keeping the tradition alive.

Finding a reliable market for unique items is key to preserving the techniques behind them.  Beforehand, Yuni and her husband Rieckey would sell their batik prints from store to store.  Now with NOVICA, their lives have changed.  Due to a healthy supply of orders from eager overseas collectors (that’s you), they now own a workshop, and can employ neighbors in their small village, providing the community with much needed income.

If it weren’t for successful operations like these, the safety of such techniques would still be in the balance, as it seems not even UNESCO is immune to drastic budget cuts.

As of November 2011, the U.S. funding to UNESCO has been suspended due to a legal technicality involving UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine.

It’s not yet clear how a funding hole worth up to 22% of UNESCO’s yearly budget will affect operations – but one thing is for sure, a weakened UNESCO is not just bad news for cultural traditions like Batik – it’s bad news for everyone.

It seems likely many important programs such as the protection of intangible cultural heritage around the world will be scaled down in an effort to keep their most vital operations afloat: These include literacy programs, ensuring freedom of the world’s press, protection of the world’s monuments, and supporting an ocean based Tsunami warning system.

So what can we do to help?

The most immediate need UNESCO faces is plugging the huge gap in their funding – so we thought why not harness the wide appeal of precious art forms and hold a week-long fundraiser of our own?  Our Keepers of the Arts have come together to form a collection of some of the world’s most precious artistic traditions – and 10% of the proceeds this week will be donated directly to UNESCO. You can view the collection here

Prefer to donate directly to UNESCO?  You can make a donation here

If you value our human heritage, and the building of an open, free society, please share this under-reported story with friends and followers – and you’ll be helping global artisans along the way.

Do you think we are doing enough as a society to protect our heritage?  

NOVICA’s goal is to preserve art forms by empowering artisans to earn sustainable income from their crafts – do you think this approach is effective?  And are there any art forms you know of that still need our attention?  Let us know in the comments below.

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