Greetings to all after a long blog hiatus. As many of you know my husband Jay and I had a very difficult summer with a death in the family and all of the trials that come with loss. We had a trip planned out West but stayed in Atlanta to support those who needed us. I didn’t feel terribly inspired for awhile, but last weekend I decided to venture out to the Asia Cultural Experience festival which featured dance, drumming, lectures, and food from countries such as Korea, Malaysia, India, Thailand and more. I met my dear friend Lynn Wong and we headed straight for the food court. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I relish the act of eating, and the choices did not disappoint. Along with Lynn, a couple of new friends, and Narsi Narasimhan, Chairman of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, we dug into curried potatoes, shrimp pad Thai, fried rice, and bubble tea. After lunch we wandered, observing children in traditional clothing reconnecting with their heritage through dance. We ran into friends and enjoyed the day, but the best activity was yet to come.
The Malaysia Association of Georgia had a booth at the festival and we noticed all these kids gathered around their table with paintbrushes. Intrigued Lynn and I walked over only to discover they were making batiks! Batik, for those who have not been introduced to the craft, is a technique for decorating fabrics. Artists use molten wax to draw the patterns, covering the parts that they do not want colored. Once you’ve created your pattern you paint over the wax and textile, creating a piece of clothing or a wall hanging. The word “batik” is of Indonesian origin and is related to the Malay word “titik” which means “dot” or “point.” The technique has been found in many parts of the world, and I had strong memories of seeing the craft in Nepal where I lived for a year.
Lynn and I decided to try our hand at making a batik and sat down with our paintbrushes. I must confess I hadn’t smiled that much since our tragic loss; I lost myself in the art, even though I had no clue about “proper” batik making techniques. I swirled paint around and made a pattern meant to look like the stars in space and colored it with aqua blue, red, yellow and black. A small boy gave me some advice on improving my piece, and I implemented his wisdom with gusto.
One thing I like to remind my clients is that above all else, interacting with different cultures brings the reward of fun and enrichment. Cross-cultural challenges sometimes create struggle and the need to push through it, but like climbing a mountain you always have a chance to get a new perspective after the work is done.