Design competition celebrates beauty of Batik and Seshweshwe

Fashion has become a representation of cultural identity that spans decades.

A competition with the theme The Beauty of Batik and Seshweshwe: A Collaboration of Creativity in South African Bride Fashion Design was recently hosted by the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria in collaboration with the North Pretoria Vocational College (Tshwane North TVET College).

The competition kicked off in September in commemoration of Heritage Day in South Africa on September 24 and Batik Day in Indonesia on October 2.

Eight students from the college competed in the finals by designing a wedding dress that combines Batik with the traditional South African fabric, Seshweshwe.

The judging took place on November 19 and 25. The final leg of the competition was hosted at the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria and chaired by Umi Salman Al Farisi, the wife of the Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa, Salman Al Farisi.

The students’ designs were based on their research on Batik and Indonesian women’s fashion in general. They were inspired by the diversity of Indonesian and South African cultures, as well as the combination of patterns and cultural philosophies of Batik.

The winner was Petronella Makgeta, who designed a Batik wedding dress with a Rangrang pattern while second prize went to Rasekgwalo Minicent, who used Batik Betawi patterns.

Mr Al Farisi said the students didn’t merely participate in a competition, but had the “courage to combine two cultures that have grown for centuries”.

He said the winner conveyed a message of harmony between the people of Indonesia and South Africa, who have been supporting each other and working together in a partnership.

In South Africa, Batik has been acknowledged as men’s clothing and has its own historical meaning for its people.

The trend is known as the Madiba Shirt, made popular by former South African President Nelson Mandela.