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The “Batik” Polemic at the 2022 G20 Bali Summit

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

The 2022 G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, was successfully held on November 15–16, 2022 and marked the end of President Joko Wido of Indonesia’s presidency in G20. As the the most-awaited annual agenda of the G20 itself, this global scale summit was attended by the representatives of 17 out of 20 members of the G20 including the United States President Joe Biden, China’s President Xi Jinping, and the European Union’s President Corales Michel, as well as other leaders and representative delegates from each country and institution. One of the many outcomes of the summit was the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration, which highlights aspects of global economic stability, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change issues, and many more topics. Apart from the fruitful political discussion and resolution presented by each member’s representative during the summit, one interesting aspect found at the event was during the Gala Dinner. As a multicultural country, the vivacious cultural performance that was conducted at the Gala Dinner showed the grandeur and diversity of Indonesia’s culture, gaining many positive responses from the G20 delegates.


Notably, at the Gala Dinner, the majority of the attendees were dressed in Batik, Indonesia’s traditional attire. Wearing the cultural clothing of the host country has always been a part of the G20 Summit tradition, however, given the public nature of the Gala Dinner, this detail regarding the Batik dress code has garnered much public attention online, and even some controversy. One thing that has quite provocatively raised Indonesian netizens’ tension was some of the snide comments from people who were unaware of Indonesian culture and Batik itself: “What on earth are they wearing,” “Why are they all dressed the same,” “What’s with the ‘weird clothes’ they’re wearing?” Many Indonesian netizens snapped back after reading these comments, resulting in some apology statements and clarifications from the people who made the snide remarks about Batik.


Getting to Know More About Batik


As one of Indonesia's many traditional fashions, Batik is a pictorial cloth, both an art and a craft, that is made explicitly by applying wax and dye to the material and being processed in a certain way. This particular fabric art technique is quite similar to various cultures around the world; its history can be traced back more than 1,500 years ago from Ancient Egypt, Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, China, and many other regions. That said, Batik is an art form from a rich and long acculturation process. In Indonesia, the Batik art has been traced to have evolved from Java, as the word Batik originates from the Javanese word “tik” which means to dot. Among all the traditional clothing that each country in Indonesia has, Batik is the most widely known attire and is the nation’s national costume. Interestingly, each region has its own take on Batik, especially the pattern, which may show different philosophical meaning and uniqueness than other areas. Despite the regional differences, Batik always has a special meaning for Indonesians.


The Art of Being Kind and Respectful


The Batik polemic at the 2022 G20 Bali Summit that occurred on the internet, highlights how important it is to always respect others’ cultures. It is vital to be understanding and especially mindful when facing new ideas and cultural values from other countries.


Editors: Alisha B., Phoebe H.

Cover image source: Reuters (Willy Kurniawan)


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