Batik painting: A life restored through art
By Natthinee Rodraksa
KRABI, October 2005 – After narrowly escaping death in the tsunami, Songklod takes solace in batik painting – a healing form of art where the bright colours he splashes on the cloth canvasses help blot out the bad memories.
“I was depressed after the tsunami from losing my house and seeing my parents lose their jobs,” says Songklod, a tall and shy 14-year-old. “Batik painting helps cheer me up, calm me down and improve my concentration.”
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education’s Non-Formal Education Department, introduced batik painting as an activity to facilitate psychosocial recovery for children and young people living at the Nong Kok temporary shelter, which is home to over 70 households from Phi Phi Island.
With start-up supplies from UNICEF, batik painting has become one of the favourite weekend activities for both children and adults at the shelter. More than 40 children gather every weekend at the shelter’s makeshift batik centre, where they are free to exercise their artistic talents and imagination.
Initially set up to serve as a psychosocial support activity, the centre has slowly grown into a small community business from which children can earn some income to help their families. Paintings made at the centre are sold between 100 and 1,000 baht (US $2.50 to $25).
Naturally talented, Songklod is one of the centre’s most promising young painters. He is pleased that he can earn some money, however little, to help his family while his father, a construction supervisor, looks for work. The money he earns also makes it possible for him to go to school, which his family could not afford before the tsunami.
“It’s so good to go back to school where I have friends and can practice drawing and painting during the art class. My art teacher always gives me tips and new techniques to improve my batik painting skills,” he says.
When asked about his future plans, the usually reticent Songklod eagerly explains that he has them all worked out.
“I want to continue doing batik painting. I really enjoy it. I’m also saving up for my education,” Songkold says.
He says if things go as planned, he will one day open a batik shop in Krabi. In the meantime, he is enjoying going to school and painting batik – two opportunities that came his way after the tsunami.