A Cup of Java: Our Lives Making Batiks in Java Indonesia

News from Michael - Part 1

Getting to Java from Columbus Ohio is always a grueling trip. This time we tried a new route: Columbus / Houston / Moscow / Singapore / Solo, Indonesia. We spent 28 hours in the air, plus 22 hours of waiting for flights in airports. The trip is exhausting, and the jet lag lasts for more than a week since we change 12 time zones.

Mbak Lenny & Mas Danang with Indonesian parents.Being here, and working with these people is a great honor, and huge learning experience. I can happily report that they learn a great deal from us too. We are collaborating on many levels, in terms of batik production, dyeing, design, business communications, factory design, safety and more.

Early during this trip we were honored to attend our good friends Mbak Lenny & Mas Danang's wedding ceremony. The Javanese wedding ritual is very complex and full of symbolism and meaning. The wedding was preceded by other rituals over the past 6 months. First was the marriage proposal ceremony (which we were also honored to attend), then the proposal acceptance ceremony, a planning meeting, and a ceremony the night before the wedding, where Mbak Lenny is bathed, pampered and treated like an angel.

Mbak and Mas are titles of respect, reflecting younger age. Debra's title is Ibu Debra and mine is Pak Michael here in Java. Ibu and Pak are for elders, like Mrs. and Mr. but they are not optional here in Java. To address us as just Debra and Michael without Ibu and Pak attached is disrespectful.

Mbak Lenny & Mas Danang with American parents.The wedding preparations are very elaborate and the ritual must be performed correctly. Debra and I were dressed in traditional Javanese clothes and Debra in traditional makeup. More than 1200 attended the ceremony, reception and meal here in Solo, Mbak Lenny’s home town. It was not considered a large wedding/reception and a second reception was held in Yogyakarta, Mas Danang’s home town.

I was honored to be one of the hosts, dressed in traditional sarong, with “blankon” (hat) and ceremonial “kris” (sword). I greeted the arriving guests, shaking hands and bowing for an hour. The greeting was not in the Indonesian language but the highest most refined form of Javanese. The Javanese language has many levels of speech depending on who you are speaking to; a child, a peer, a parent, or within the royal court. You must use the proper form or it is disrespectful. Even though the wedding used the old traditional form, there were many huge TV screens so everyone could see the ceremony, via live video feed.

Mbak Lenny & Mas Danang at second wedding reception in Yogyakarta.Debra and I were honored to be included in the ceremony as family, literally standing next to Mbak Lenny's family during parts of the ceremony. We are her American parents, and have also been accepted by her family..... WOW, what an honor.

Debra walked Mbak Lenny down the aisle as family representative, along with the family “dukkun” (medicine person/healer)

Mbak Lenny is a terrific young lady, very smart, diligent, and beautiful. Mas Danang, is a very intelligent, kind and handsome man. We are happy for them and their families. I mention their families, because the families join in a very special way along with the bride & groom. In many ways the families are married too.

Michael Mrowka & Debra Lunn will be reporting in from Indonesia for their column "A Cup of Java". They are the designers behind the highly successful Artisan Batik fabrics available from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. To read Part 2 of this series, click here.