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Fashion Talk follows the thread between Indonesia and Cape Town

A model wearing designs by Indonesian fashion designer Anita Gathmir. Picture: Shakirah Thebus

A model wearing designs by Indonesian fashion designer Anita Gathmir. Picture: Shakirah Thebus

Published Sep 14, 2023


Cape Town - Preservers of culture and age-old traditions were exquisitely showcased through fashion at the Indonesian Fashion Talk, hosted by the Indonesian Consulate in Cape Town this week.

In line with Heritage Month, the consulate hosted two designers from Indonesia who displayed how their works, steeped in cultural practices, are inextricably linked to Cape Town, more specifically the Cape Malay community.

The event forms part of the “Thread of Indonesia” which commenced at the Mount Nelson Hotel on Monday, with the Indonesian Fashion Talk taking place at the Consulate in Kenilworth on Tuesday.

Attendees from Indonesia, the diaspora and Cape Malay community were present for the hybrid event, including descendants of Imam Abdullah ibn Kadi (Qadri) Abdus Salaam, more commonly known as Tuan Guru (Master/ Grande teacher).

A member of the royal family, Tuan Guru was banished as a “state prisoner” to the Cape by the Dutch colonisers. He arrived in the Cape on April 6, 1780 and was incarcerated on Robben Island. Tuan Guru wrote out the Holy Qur’an from memory while imprisoned.

Tidore woven fabrics was extinct for about 100 years until designer Anita Gathmir, through her label Puta Dino Kayangan, ventured into the recovery and preservation of this cultural craftsmanship.

She has also empowered others to earn a living through this ancient technique. Gathmir received support from the Sultan of Tidore, Husain Syah, to showcase the technique in South Africa.

“Tidore and Cape Town have a really close history (it is) where Tuan Guru from Tidore was exiled to Robben Island for 12 years.

“After he was freed, he built a school and mosque and obviously spread Islam in Cape Town and now all his descendants are in Cape Town, which we recognise as the Cape Malay community.

“He (Sultan) hopes that with this event, Ms Gathmir will bring the culture and strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Tidore,” the Sultanate Syah said through a translator.

One particular piece of clothing shows the journey of Tuan Guru from Tidore by ocean, and depicts some of his possessions including the handwritten Qur’an, still perfectly preserved to date.

Designer Jessica Febiani of Jessicca Moretosee pairs classic Batik with contemporary designs.

Batik, with its origins from the island of Java, refers to the Indonesian technique of using wax and dye to decorate cloth.

The method, which is intrinsically part of the everyday life and culture of Indonesians, has been practised for centuries. Batik is usually done on cloth, but can be used on paper, wood, leather and ceramic surfaces.

After having been gifted with two batik shirts, the late former president Nelson Mandela, the world famous statesman could be seen with it becoming his signature look.

Indonesian Batik was also inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.

Consul for Economic Affairs at the Consulate-General of the Republic of Indonesia in Cape Town, Setyo Hargianto, said that the consulate hopes to continue these forms of collaboration with different commodities in Indonesia.