PASSION:Ann Dunham acquired her prized collection during travels in Java
THE batik collection of United States president Barack Obama's late mother Ann Dunham has made its international debut in Malaysia at the Islamic Arts Museum here.
The display of Dunham's personal collection, which the anthropologist acquired from villagers in her travels across Java, marks the museum's first batik exhibition since it opened 14 years ago.
The exhibition which is on until July 20 features pieces such as sarong and baby carriers.
A photographic timeline of Dunham's life and an unfinished piece of batik she was working on are the star attractions at the exhibit.
Ten pieces of Javanese batik cloth which belong to the museum are also on display.
There are information boards on the history of batik, the motifs, and how they are produced, worn and collected.
Her daughter Dr Maya Soetoro-Ng who represented the East West Centre in bringing her mother's collection to Malaysia said her mother lovingly collected the pieces as a celebration of Indonesia, Java and her people.
Soetoro-Ng who is married to Konrad Ng from Sabah said her mother loved her batik collection dearly and would spread them across furniture.
She said her mother had wanted to build a home for her collection.
"But, this is a lovely home," she said, adding that the enduring textile spoke of Indonesia, Southeast Asia and, even Indonesia's and Malaysia's interwoven heritage.
In a video message aired at the opening, Obama said he could still see his mother in her collection.
"She'd buy them from village markets or make them herself. She'd lay them out around the house just to look at them," he said, adding that the collection was not just about fashion but a central aspect to who his mother was.
"As a woman, she knew the textiles meant a livelihood for the mothers and young women who made them. As an anthropologist, batik helped her to understand the lives of others -- their culture, traditions, challenges and hopes," he said, adding that his mother was a pioneer in micro finance.
He said she helped women who sold and made batik gain a foothold in the economy.
"In these fabrics, I'm reminded of the principles that animated my mother's life. She understood that whether you live in a rural village or a teeming city, we all share certain basic aspirations to live in dignity, peace and security; to provide for our families; to give our children a better life.
"I hope that this exhibit continues the work to which she devoted her life, enlarging our discourse and our understanding, among peoples and nations," he said, referring to Dunham's involvement in micro credit schemes and small enterprises for the batik makers.
Present were US ambassador to Malaysia Datuk Paul W. Jones and the museum's curatorial affairs head Dr Heba Nayel Barakat.
The museum is producing a 120- page catalogue entitled Ann Dunham's Legacy: A collection of Indonesian Batik.