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25th May 2021 at 6 pm: From Sarong to Sari: Rabindranath Tagore's fascination with the batik of Java

A talk by Dr Maria Wronska-Friend

In 1927 Rabindranath Tagore visited Java and Bali and became fascinated with the local culture. He found that many traditions that had disappeared in India, were still flourishing in Indonesia (India, for more than a millennium, exercised a pronounced cultural impact on Indonesian islands). In particular, Tagore became interested in Javanese batik. He collected several dozens of Javanese batiks and on return to Santiniketan in West Bengal, he supported the introduction of the batik technique into the curriculum of the local art school. The new technique has been embraced in Santiniketan with great enthusiasm and resulted in the production of thousands of stunning saris, stoles, fitted garments and decorative fabrics. Batik production in West Bengal continues until today and during the last three decades it grew into a significant cottage industry that provides employment to thousands of people.

Maria Wronska Friend is an anthropologist and museum curator with a particular interest in people’s relationship to their material culture. She has been associated with James Cook University since 1992, initially as a Lecturer at the Material Culture Unit in Townsville and currently as an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the College of Arts, Society and Education at Cairns Campus.

Born in Poland, in 1978 she received an MA in Anthropology from the University of Lodz and in 1987 a PhD from the Institute of Arts, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, for the thesis Javanese batik and European art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Building D3, Language and Culture Research Centre,

The Cairns Institute, James Cook University

PO Box 6811, Cairns, QLD 4870 AUSTRALIA


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