Batik is a technique for decorating textiles, by which parts of the textile that are not to be coloured are covered in molten wax. The wax prevents the textile from absorbing the dye during the decorating process.
Wax resist dyeing technique in fabric is an ancient art form. Discoveries show it already existed in Egypt in the 4th century BCE, where it was used to wrap mummies; linen was soaked in wax, and scratched using a sharp tool.
In Asia, the technique was practiced in China during the T'ang
dynasty (618-907 CE), and in India and Japan during the Nara period (645-794
CE). In Africa it was originally practiced by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria,
Soninke and Wolof in Senegal.
Since the 16th century the art of batik has been documented in the Malay
Archipelago, and particularly in Java the art was developed to a very high
standard. The legend goes when Laksamana Hang Nadim was ordered by the Malacca King, Sultan Mahmud, to sail to India to buy 140 pieces of serasah cloth (batik) with 40 types of flowers depicted on each. Unable to find any that fulfilled the requirements explained to him, he made up his own. On his return unfortunately, his ship sank and he only managed to bring four pieces, earning displeasure from the Sultan.