Sneak Peek at Laweyan History as “Kampung Batik”

Laweyan is one of the most popular kampong in Solo, many batik industries can be found here. Batik industries in Laweyan have been established even before Mataram, one of the famous islamic kingdom in java, moved to Solo from Kartasura. Based on KRT. Mlayadipuro, the history of laweyan was started in 1500’s when Laweyan village was given to Ki Ageng Henis by the king of Pajang Kingdom. Pajang Kingdom was the former kingdom of Mataram. Ki Ageng Henis is an imam which is not only teaching Islamic wisdom but also batik as an art and tradition. In that era, laweyan become the trading center of the kingdom that specializes in threads (“lawe”) for weaving process. Therefore, people started to call it “Laweyan”.

The existence of Kabanaran River has been helped the development of thread industry and trading activities in Laweyan. In Kabanaran Port the  goods distribution actively takes place. Although it rapidly replaced by land transportation such as train. In the 20th century, Laweyan inhabitants are famous as a rich businessman. They even richer than the nobleman in the palace.

In the past, batik business in Laweyan was managed by women, from the batik production process to financial management and marketing. They called them self as Mbok Mase where Mbok means mother, while their husband called as Mas Nganten (Mas: older brother). In the development of batik businesses, women particularly, contribute 75% in the management and production processes while the husband only 25%. Here, their capability in managing businesses have brought women to higher social level. Then these women will trained their daughter. So that later, they could take over the family business, but at that time they were not aware with the strike of modern technology especially textile printing technology. This technology have dominated batik market in 1970’s until late 1990’s. Batik industries in Laweyan then started to rise again when it was formally introduced as Kampong Batik by the former mayor of Solo, Slamet Suryanto in 2000’s.


illustration of batik making (this picture taken in Pesindon Pekalongan)

By: International Class Studio Team Urban and Regional Development Diponegoro University Class 2012

The development of batik industry in Laweyan in the 20th century supported by some factors including batik has a important meaning toward the palace and kingdom as a symbol of power and nobility rank. At that time batik has been transformed into a popular item in the Javanese society especially in Solo City. Batik industry in Laweyan become even bigger when the businessman get the permission to produce stamp batik with traditional motif. The discovery of stamp batik has been affected on the hand writing batik production and market that made by the palace. The use of creative motif has also been suppressed the existence of classic motif. The popularity of batik in Java not only beneficial to the batik maker in Laweyan but also the dutch colonial as the demand of cotton increase. As the market getting bigger not only Javanese businessman attracted to batik industry but also some foreign migrants such as Arabic, china, and European businessman. The detail number of Surakarta batik industries in 1930’s can be found below,

No Owner Total Number
1 Javanese (pribumi) 236
2 China 60
3 Arabic 88
4 European 3
Total 387

Sources: P. De Kat Angelino, 1930, page. 321 in Soedarmono, 2006, page. 49

From those detail above more than 85% of the industries are located in Laweyan and it owned 100% by Javanese people. Those company has different characteristic and specialization. There are five categorizes in batik industry including batik company, babaran company, wedelan company, mbironi company, and prembe or outworker distributor. Batik company is the biggest or the mother for other four companies, the existence of these four companies is to support the production and marketing activities of batik company. There is an unwritten loyal relationship between those supporting company with the main batik company.

Reference and further reading : Mas Mbok Pengusaha Batik Laweyan Solo Awal Abad 20 —-> you can buy it at Roemahkoe Hotel Laweyan Solo (Rp 100.000)^^