Thursday, 17 May 2007

Batik in Malaysia

Diane Gaffney recently told me that Malaysia is hosting a second KLIB batik convention this autumn. Although I think their last one was more concerned with clothing, fashion and commercial batik than with fine art batik, I would love to go simply because it is in Malaysia (where I learned batik in the early 1990s) . I could catch up with a few friends, eat durian (can't remember when the season is) and roti canai, practise my rusty Malay, and then shoot up to Northeast Thailand to chill out and catch up with things there. After I finish this commission, I will be working again on what I loosely call the Mekong batiks, inspired by my last visit to this area. So everything seems to slot in (though haven't thought about financing it yet!) including the excuse of not having had a holiday away for years.

At the moment I am researching and writing an article for the Batik Guild magazine on climate change and batik practice following both the IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recent report 'Mitigation of Climate Change' and the British government's Draft Climate Change Bill of March 2007. News of the convention makes me wonder whether international get-togethers are still "a good thing" - or the right thing - considering all the carbon going into the atmosphere from participants flying there from all over. In terms of communication, learning, sharing, inspiring and general buzz they can't be beaten... but at what point do they become unsustainable? On the other hand, this kind of specialist networking is a useful "tool" for spreading new ideas... maybe even sustainable batik practice! Might the positive effect of one outweigh the negative of the other?

Or maybe it's fine for international get-togethers to be in and for those countries (and their citizens) who cannot be considered primary creators and maintainers of "the problem", such as Malaysia. After all why should they lose out because of our lifestyles? Why should they cut back now too, when their starting point is way less consumerist, on-demand and carbon-intensive than our existing one? We in the west will have to show a lot more willing and action I reckon before the rest of the world can be expected to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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