The Batik Sifu – Part 3

Batik lessons weren’t really on our agenda when we were in Cherating. It just happened that we wanted to get some batik souvenirs – t-shirts, sarongs, scarves – and we saw that it costs just RM30 to paint your own batik shirt.
Being on holiday meant that one usually does nutty things. We got around talking and decided that we would take on the challenge to paint ourselves a shirt each. Despite that the last time I painted something was when I was in Form 3. And got C3 for my Lukisan paper during SRP.
Although we had wanted to learn from this grumpy guy at Limbong Art (Pantai Cherating lama), we were perhaps ‘saved’ when we dropped by a cheery Western cafe for a lunch of burgers.
Amelia of Amies Cafe, when quizzed about batik, said that there were 3 people we could check out. She was tactful in that she didn’t say which was better. It depended on what style or feel one was searching for. Brian came to mind if one wanted a more artistic feel to batik. Matahari was another we could try (psst…Matahari also runs backpacker-style chalets and has been mentioned before in Lonely Planet). Limbong Art was another option too. The rotund guy at Limbong was grumpy while Brian aka Ibrahim didn’t have time for us – he preferred to teach mat sallehs.
After checking out each of her recommendations, we unanimously agreed that Matahari seemed the best in terms of choice and atmosphere. Matahari is actually a batik shop-batik painting workshop-backpacker huts business run by this utterly friendly guy called Zee and his brother, the rather famous but down-to-earth batik teacher, Abdul Hayu Hassan. They’re Kelantanese but they’ve been in Cherating for the last 15 years.

The messy workshop in session.

Their workshop is messy but fun nonetheless. There’s something relaxing about taking one’s time learning how to paint batik in a kampung environment, with stray chickens, mewing kittens and totally unperturbed mat sallehs taking their own sweet time designing their own batik.
Zee, our batik sifu, taught us some basics of using the tjanting. Like wide-eyed kids, we couldn’t wait to start using the melted wax to draw our designs but he made sure we sat down and chose our designs first. The guys opted to draw on plain white cotton while my friend and I chose to be practical (like the women we were) – we were going to draw on t-shirts. This was a mistake really because we were amateurs who didn’t know how to control the melted beeswax from the tjanting. It is not as easy as it looks!

The shirt-less one is Zee – pointing out the dos and donts of using the tjanting
What happened was we got around to chatting (there’s nothing lovelier than being Malaysian and using BM to crack jokes the mat sallehs couldn’t understand) and like the reporter that I was trained to be, I started to ask questions. Oooh. Many questions.
Well, in the end, we ended up knowing about everyone who was anyone at the area. The rich fellow who sold plots of land away but had children who wasted half his fortune because they were so naive in business. The makcik across the road who ran a little warung but whose son studied in Australia and brought home to Cherating the idea of surfing during the monsoon season (he was the first to teach surfing in Cherating).
Our t-shirts weren’t exactly the easiest material to work with because the cotton was too thick. This meant Zee, the consummate teacher-pro, had to turn the shirt over and re-trace the outline from the inside to ensure that our colours did not leak when we applied the paint. I guess the both of us (my friend and I) gave him the most headaches, in between asking a dozen questions.

Nic applying colours to the cloth outlined with beeswax.
We spent two whole afternoons at Matahari, diligently working on our batik pieces. In between, Zee would give us some tips about controlling the colours (colours spread quickly on cotton but one colour could give off various hues just by diluting it with water).

Here’s Zee, up a coconut tree!
He would also climb up the coconut tree, pluck some ripe coconuts for us so we could enjoy refreshing coconut water when we took a break from bending over our pieces!
Sure, the mosquitoes attacked us like crazy especially nearing dusk and we botched some parts of our shirts but the ever patient Zee was there to lend a repairing hand. The guys did very well with their batik pieces, prompting us to be highly envious. (He also sells you the batik equipment if you ask… and he’s honest and gives hefty discounts when you buy from his batik shop.)
So if you are ever in Cherating, don’t miss the batik lessons at Matahari.
To get to Matahari, just ask the locals. Everyone knows where it is. It costs RM30 to paint a t-shirt (baby tee), and RM25-RM40 to paint a sarong, inclusive of lessons, materials, paints, etc. until you get your finished piece, flapping gently in the wind to dry.
The satisfaction?

btw, this is Nic’s piece de resistance… cool eh?

Nic (left) with batik sifu, Zee and his batik piece.

13 thoughts on “The Batik Sifu – Part 3”

  1. Hi Faiz
    Nope, Limbong Art was not that good – did you not read that the guy at Limbong was grumpy and unfriendly? He wasn’t welcoming at all. Thank god we discovered Zee of Matahari who is both friendly and accommodating.

  2. hey..zee and hayu is my uncle..but now he has stoped teaching batik..they has opened restaurant..came and visit them at restoran matahari..cherating

  3. Hye maya, thanks for the compliment . I really appreciate that. You are welcome to come here anytime. Hayu just start his batik painting again after 5 years left it. Hayu is also joined Piala seri endon competition now. Thank you again 🙂

  4. Hi Ayu, Leena , Amalia and family! I’m sure Ayu will remember me! I was teaching in KL about 20 years ago! I came and stayed at Mathari many times when I lived there before 1994- when I left for England. I remember taking Amalia for roti canai breakfast and still have a photo of that time! Please tell Ayu and Leena that I often think of them and will come and visit them in early May with my best friend Pali who they also met once , before that girl Aya went to Europe to be married!
    I have tried to call Mathari many times but the numbers on the Internet are all different and I can never connect! Please can you e mail
    the correct number!
    I look forward to hearing from you soon!
    Best wishes always, Bob and Pali!

    • Hi Bob: Errr….I don’t have Matahari’s number either as I haven’t been there in years. I think it should be easier if you just went to Kemaman and surprised them 😉


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