Conservation and preservation of intangible heritage are not simple. Applying technology to conservation is even more difficult. However, the iWareBatik initiative has succeeded in using technology to preserve cultural heritage for the next generations.
Batik is a traditional Indonesian textile, using hot melted wax and natural dyes. The process of creating a Batik textile can take from 1 month to 2 years depending on the purposes use of the textile and the complexity of the motifs and color. Batik handwriting textile can involve 6 to 8 steps, artisans use a “canting” – a tool with a funnel filled with hot melted wax and a pen-like tip to draw patterns on the textile.
Batik is one of the oldest techniques in the world and has appeared in some Asian and African countries, but Indonesia is the place that has preserved and leveled up this art, making it a heritage of the country. Indonesians have used the Batik technique to decorate delicate motifs on textiles for more than 1,400 years and create traditional motifs typical of each region through centuries. Today, Indonesians still wear Batik clothes on formal occasions or traditional holidays.
In 2009, Indonesian Batik was added to UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity because of its special cultural values. Many Batik conservation activities have been increasingly interested in raising awareness and preserving this living heritage for future generations.
iWareBatik is a digital platform designed to showcase and communicate the special socio-cultural values of Batik heritage and thereby, promote Indonesian tourism to domestic and international tourists. The iWareBatik initiative is implemented by Puspita Ayu Permatasari, a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Digital Technologies for Communication (USI, Switzerland), with support from the LPDP Scholarship, USI eLab, USI UNESCO Chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Sites.
iWareBatik stands for “I am aware of Batik”, “interactive software of Batik” and “I wear Batik”. This digital platform consists of a website and a mobile application. Through this platform, local and international Batik stakeholders as well as those interested in learning about this heritage can get to know a variety of Batik textiles, information of their provenance, and local producers along with the philosophical meanings of each motif.
Available in two languages, English and Indonesian, the iWareBatik platform is like a map of the cultural diversity of this country. Users can explore the diversity and Batik identity of each region of Indonesia through images, videos of Batik production, and Batik fashion show events. Since the Batik motif defines the culture of each region in Indonesia, the application also provides the meaning and socio-cultural elements of these localities and allows users to interact to discover information about 129 tourist attractions related to Batik and UNESCO sites in 34 provinces of Indonesia.
The special thing of the iWareBatik mobile application is the Batik Recognition Tool with an AI camera capable of recognizing Batik motifs according to 8 different motif classifications: Kawung, Gurda, Parang, Lereng, Ceplok, Ampiek, Merak and Mega Mendung.
Before officially launching the iWareBatik platform in 2020, Puspita Ayu Permatasari spent 3 years researching and managing a team to decode 124 Batik motifs and collaborating with many others to develop an AI camera that can recognize Batik motifs.
With diverse information and technology, the iWareBatik platform has also become an e-Learning tool for Batik vocational schools in Indonesia. In 2020, iWareBatik is the most downloaded mobile app for educational purposes along with the “Map of Batik” app. To date, the iWareBatik app for Andriod and iOs reaches more than 2,800 downloads.
In an interview with NOW! Jarkatar, Puspita said: “The goal of iWareBatik is to reignite people’s passion for learning and understanding the Indonesian batik tradition, which was recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009.”.
“We hope that iWareBatik can become an example of how to use digital technology to promote the preservation of batik as intangible cultural heritage,” she said.
On December 10, 2020, the iWareBatik project was introduced at the Asian Digital Forum CIDOC – ICOM Conference 2020 themed “Digital Transformation in Cultural Heritage Institutions” as a success story of Digital Media Engagement.
Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni, chair-holder of USI’s UNESCO Chair, “this project is fully in line with the mission and the values of the UNESCO Chair: leveraging on a wise use of digital information and communication technologies in order to promote responsible and sustainable cultural/heritage tourism. In order to do so, it uses two main ingredients: on the one side, high-quality information about Batik, its history, and related culture, on the other side, the capacity of presenting it through compelling narratives, which are accessible also to travelers and locals who are not experts in this textile heritage.”
One of the important things in preserving intangible cultural heritage is to convey and arouse interest so that future generations can continue and preserve long-standing traditional values. The iWareBatik initiative has done this when applying innovative technology to heritage conservation and promotion, not only making it easy for tourists and locals to learn about Batik but also becoming an e-Learning aid tool at vocational schools.