Nelson Mandela and His Love of Batik

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19 October 2018 22:50 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - On Thursday, July 18, Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday. The anti-apartheid hero’s health has been steadily improving recently, bringing hope to the world for signs of a miraculous recovery. Throughout the years, Mandela has often been seen making an international fashion statement by wearing Indonesian batik and showing it off to the world. 


In 1997, the former South African president stunned the late former Indonesian President Suharto when he visited Indonesia. Suharto welcomed Mandela wearing a formal suit while Mandela, surprisingly, greeted the former president wearing a batik shirt. 


Mandela’s love of batik was also shown when he attended official events, such as the launch of the group of world-renowned senior figures formed to tackle global issues named, ‘The Elders’ in June 2007. He proudly wore an Indonesian batik shirt during the event, which was also held on his 87th birthday. The traditional colors of the batik enhanced the Mvezo born man’s charismatic and humble figure. 


Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa, Sugeng Rahardjo, said Mandela was first introduced to Indonesian batik in 1990, a few months after he was released from Roben Island jail. As the President of the African National Congress, he took his first trip to Asia. 


When Mandela, also popularly known as Mandiba, first received his batik shirt as a souvenir, he immediately fell in love. Since then, each time he visited Indonesia, Mandiba always wore batik. 


Most of the batik shirts worn by Mandiba were made by the late fashion designer, Iwan Tirta. This Indonesian batik maestro is well known for his large cleaver patterns in his batik designs. 


"Mandela is a strong prominent figure who suits my batik collection. He does not only look appealing, but his fighter’s charisma is enhanced even more when he wears batik," said Iwan Tirta in the late 90s when he gave one of his shirts to Nelson Mandela. 

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