Memoir: Artist’s Residence at Rumah Gahara 

“When artists come here, they’ll learn to draw, stamp, and color batik into the fabric of their choice. We shed self in favor of openness, modesty and authenticity. We let the surrounding nature and warmth of local people inspire the artists by holding moments of longing and connection, harnessing them through simple objects and everyday activities, infusing them with spirit and illuminating their natural integrity. It is in the whole stretch of Jalan Pantai Cahaya Bulan, Kampung Penambang that contains them all.”  

Since the beginning, the journey I planned for Gahara is to create impact for the batik community, my family. 

Observing my grandfather’s struggles in his batik production days when I was a kid, he did not complain. Certainly because the art calmed him down and he did it out of passion, not money. He lived a normal but under-privileged life surviving on a very small income. But maybe it was the lifestyle three decades ago, people did not live based on money alone, they lived in generosity and honesty. But for me, after two decades, I decided to create a new ecosystem for batik. I wanted to nurture not only young talent, but passionate people to get exposed to the art of batik making. 

Batik cloth has been the fabric of the locals for centuries. Batik is used to make the work clothes such as sarongs (pareo), kelubong (head scarfs) and semutar (head gear). The honest beauty of the hand-drawn, hand-stamped and hand-dipped are born out of necessity. At a time when the fingers of recession are spread all over the world, we seem to pay closer attention to the rhythm of domestic life, to the value of small daily rituals and handmade goods that offer us both practical value and comfort. 

In the movement of canting when doing batik, we see the inherent qualities of the objects we use every day and recognize that the indentations and soft curves of a hand gesture can transform a moment from simply mundane to resonant and restorative. A batik artist knows that a canting or copper block is only alive when it touches wax. 

Art is inherent in the material itself. When we discover beauty that was born rather than made, we begin to understand the art of the society; the utilitarian, familiar, affordable, accessible craft that gives depth to our daily lives. Batik art shines light on what digitally printed textiles may have seemed ubiquitous and dull. It expresses our universal, instinctive response to the comfort of practicality, asymmetry and natural form. It reminds us of the essential marriage of history, narrative, necessity, skill and most importantly, heart.

“When I pause to consider how I lived, created and consumed, I have savoured things that were made in a spirit of generosity and resourcefulness, in close harmony with nature.”

And from this perspective, The Rumah Gahara in Penambang Kelantan that I created as the initial spot in the creation of the entire ecosystem will place more value on those who are prepared to plant seeds and maintain an environment where new growth can take place and the life of craft, batik and others can flourish. 

Transience and imperfection is everywhere in this modest and peaceful Rumah Gahara. Folaites of jasmine and other inexhaustible variety of life crawl right up to the wooden walls indoor where there is charming and harmony. I tried my best to create an interior space of muted tones, texture, shadow and balance in all elements. A rich spiritual life is lived here, a life of nuance and flow. The open windows frame five clumps of bamboo to always remind us of the pillars of strength of Rumah Gahara. All these will be touching hearts of the dwellers with serene melancholy to look within and gaze beyond in their idea of batik. 

“Looking at the art of batik process, Rumah Gahara teaches that individual flaws are as celebrated as achievements. Our fragility and our capacity for joy is the thread that ties all our disparate lives together.”

In this compound, we don’t have to shine brilliantly, compete or pretend, we offer both context and freedom to explore art in the way others have not.

When artists come here, they’ll learn to draw, stamp, and color batik into the fabric of their choice. We shed self in favor of openness, modesty and authenticity. We let the surrounding nature and warmth of local people inspire the artists by holding moments of longing and connection, harnessing them through simple objects and everyday activities, infusing them with spirit and illuminating their natural integrity. It is in the whole stretch of Jalan Pantai Cahaya Bulan, Kampung Penambang that contains them all. 

Through the new perspective, Gahara hopes to find an approach of evolving the craft of batik in the most natural way possible. We want to let go of unrestrained materialism, live lightly on the earth and learn how to practice lifestyle with care and treat each other with equanimity. 

There are 3 packages available:

https://www.viator.com/tours/Kelantan/3D2N-Stay-in-traditional-house-learn-to-do-BATIK-print-and-explore-Kota-Bharu/d23398-255379P21

https://www.viator.com/tours/Kelantan/5D4N-Stay-in-traditional-house-learn-to-do-BATIK-print-and-explore-Kota-Bharu/d23398-255379P20

https://www.viator.com/tours/Kelantan/7D6N-Stay-in-traditional-house-learn-to-do-BATIK-print-and-explore-Kota-Bharu/d23398-255379P22

Nik Faiz is an architect turned artist, a third-generation batik maker from the historical Kampung Penambang. The Founder and the Creative Director of Gahara, Nik can be contacted at nik@gaharagalore.com

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