Monday, March 29, 2010

Yampanesi - Batik influences in Suriname

Like her history, Surinam dress is a melting pot of influences. The angisa and koto have for long been recognised as the national characteristic dress, but each separate ethnic group has its own fashionable take.
The often colourful dresses feature clashing prints, mostly with clear provenance (Vlisco fabrics, imported Java batik, fashionable European prints etc.).
Some prints, however, were homemade by local artists and industries. Most research on Surinamese dress has focused on the complex messages the clothing is able to convey to the insider, and actual numbers on the use of these fabrics is unknown.

At the Dutch Tropenmuseum, the collection makes a division between embroidered angisa, embroidered angisa with printed border, printed cloths and striped pattern madrasi cloth.
Printed cloths are then subdivided in machineprints, blockprints, imitation-batik, imitation-embroidery and border-only.
Healy states that most of the blockprinted cloth is red, yellow or dark-blue (seen as black by the Maroons), and suggest an African connexion in this colour scheme.
Most texts by Sally and Richard Price, however, who did extensive research on the development of Maroon clothing, suggest a less straightforward and direct link to Africa, and, for me, this needs more careful research.
The fine brochure 'Let them talk' states that imitationbatik (called Yampanesi, Javanese in Sranan) was much more used than true batik. However, in the angisa that are only decorated at the border, a reserve dyeing technique was used in part.
At first glance, I would say that the batik forms developed in Surinam have had clear typographical influences from Indian blockprinting, but I will to see more angisa to substantiate this claim. Again: to be continued, hopefully.