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Farewell Mama Rens, Tuban Batik Will Never Forget You

BULETIN TEXTILE.COM/ Jakarta – My deepest condolences is for the passing of the Dutch anthropologist Mama Rens Heringa. She is very instrumental in popularizing Gedhog Weaving and Batik Kerek, Tuban in the international world. Mama Rens died on 14 December 2022 in Leiden Netherlands at over 80 years old.

Rens Heringa, often written Rinske, affectionately for Dutch people

Rens Heringa, born in the Netherlands and in 1954 married a medical student from Indonesia. In 1959, when her husband returned to Surabaya, she followed her husband to live in Surabaya. No wonder he mastered Indonesian and even Javanese, which is used by the people of East Java on a daily basis.

During her stay in Surabaya she was very interested in studying traditional textiles and visited Kerek sub-district, Tuban, this is about 108 km away.

The uniqueness and features of the Gedhog Weaving, the motifs, and the history of Tuban Batik made this student majoring in anthropology stimulated by adrenaline.

She spent her time living with the Kerek people to learn from how they grow Lawa cotton, a distinctive brown cotton that is said to only grow in Kerek District.

She also learned how to spin cotton into lawe, namely the term hand-spun yarn which in some communities is termed as Jantra, alias Nini Thowok (read “Nini Thowok, the spinning wheel – Rens Heringa).

In 1985 after having a lot of notes as a result of his research, Rens returned to the Netherlands to continue her formal studies in anthropology, specifically in the field of textiles. Up to this point Rens has produced many important articles on East Javanese cloth.

The results of her observations regarding the special culture in terms of Batik made Rens accepted by many educational institutions to finance his research. She has recorded 38 pieces of writing in the form of journals and short articles published in books that discuss Indonesian Batik.

This has made batik expert figures, where all of his writings have become a reference for writers and researchers who want to write about Javanese Batik.

While the writings published in the form of a book under his own name entitled “Nini thowok, The Spinning Wheel” whose research and publication received financial support from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

Through writing the book “Nini Towok”, we discover the reality that – we as Indonesians – have never known about how a group of people who have strong traditions are adhered to so far in the modern age of civilization.

The strata that apply in the Kerek area are not based on aristocratic levels like in the palace area, but the highest strata here are the Kalang people; namely the descendants of their parents who were tripe from the Kerek area.

The next stratum is the dry field owner, then the rice field owner. Below that are those farmers who are not landowners. And the amazing thing is that the strata work voluntarily, no one forces them.

Left dry land farmers and rice fields have a different tradition of dressing with batik

Do you know what differentiates people from one stratum to another? their clothes.

Kerek sub-district women make cloth in five different types, both the way of weaving and the kinds of motifs. The five types are used by different social groups.

There is lurik batik, namely lurik cloth in batik, cloth with only striated motifs, batik cloth made from gedhog woven fabric called Batik Gedhog. While the public can still buy manufactured fabrics that are sold in the market, this is outside the intended strata.

Kerek women are fully dressed when they have to leave their village, for example selling to the market. She wore kebaya, jarit, shawl (Sayut).

The woman on the right is the wife of the village head who is wearing her oversized attire, in the form of batik cloth with a distinctive Kerek pattern, while on the left is her in-laws who live from outside their area, seen wearing batik jarit purchased from the market (not making batik herself). The two women are holding their seven-month pregnancy event.

Such rare information appears to the public at large thanks to the services of Rens Heringa.

If you are interested in reading more extensive information about the traditions of the people of Kerek District, Tuban, please read the article at this link.

(Red B-Teks/ Adi Kusrianto)

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