Every year when exams are over, the final library book has been returned and the last Senior bell has sounded, something very special takes place - ISKL’s Graduation Ceremony. In a few short weeks, High School Seniors will don their cap, gown and sash in readiness for an emotional and joyous celebration marking the end of their school days at ISKL.
While the cap and gown are well-known symbols of academia, the batik print graduation sash is a symbol of ISKL’s cultural link with our host country, Malaysia. This year, on May 31, when the sash is placed around the shoulders of the 162 graduating students, a new tradition will begin. The first graduates from ISKL’s Ampang Hilir campus will be wearing a batik print designed by ISKL students for ISKL students which has been specially commissioned for use at graduation ceremonies in perpetuity.
The story behind the batik print is one of inspiration and collaboration between students, parents and faculty. The idea of a batik sash was first initiated by the ISKL Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in 2011 and since then our parent team of Grade Level Coordinators (GLCs) have taken responsibility for sourcing the batik print and producing the sashes. In 2018, the parents of graduating Seniors, represented and led by volunteer GLCs, Ms. Jenny Busaidy, Ms. Sharon Kossler, and Ms. Gloria Uribe, decided to commission the design and production of a batik print which could be handed down to future generations of graduating seniors.
The GLC’s initiated the lengthy process in the Spring of 2018 and enlisted the support of Ms. Kim Gruia, an ISKL parent with expertise in batik who in turn involved one of ISKL’s High School Visual Arts teachers, Ms. Jo Tilton.
Under the guidance of Ms. Gruia and Ms. Tilton, three Grade 11 International Baccalaureate Diploma Visual Arts students, Kritika Agrawal, Rachel Ng, and Kevin Ramli volunteered their time and creative vision to design an exclusive ISKL batik block. Together they created a pattern which reflects the diversity of ISKL, pays tribute to the school’s history, and honors the heritage of our host country. The students integrated meaningful visual elements into the design including two koi fish to symbolize good luck and remind students of the prominent koi pond at both our old and new campuses. The acronym ‘ISKL’ features prominently in the pattern, while the letters ‘MY’ are artfully embedded in the design of an open book representing the learning journey taken in our host country. Reinforcing the cultural link with Malaysia, the students also incorporated the hibiscus, the national flower, as well as an Islamic motif in abstract design. The myriad of lines reflect and celebrate the diversity of our school community, the connections forged with others, the trips taken, the choices made, and the paths explored as students transition through ISKL.
The initial design process involved extensive collaboration, and took several months as the group worked to develop and finalize the pattern. The illustration was then translated into a digital version and refined into the final design we now have. This design was then printed and sent to a local artisan who crafted the batik block by hand, soldering hundreds of small pieces of metal onto a metal frame to create the complex pattern designed by our students. Over several months, local artisans hand-stamped and dyed the fabric to create the batik that would be made into our Graduates’ sashes.
Once the cloth was printed, the Lady Ayez Sewing Center, a women-run group of talented Pakistani seamstresses affiliated with the UNHCR, was commissioned to sew the sashes. With the year of graduation and the ISKL name embroidered onto each piece, the sashes are mementos of the students’ time at ISKL and our school’s connection to our host country.
The involvement of parents, students and faculty in this project exemplifies the spirit of collaboration at ISKL. On behalf of our graduating Seniors now and in the years to come we thank everyone involved - our GLCs and Grade 12 parents for their foresight in initiating the idea and commissioning the print, our talented art students for creating such an impactful design, and Ms. Tilton and Ms. Gruia for their input, expertise and support. Collectively they have inspired and created a new tradition that will be shared by all those who graduate from ISKL, linking past, present, and future Alumni.
Finally, a message to all our Seniors: enjoy your Graduation Ceremony and wear your ISKL sash with pride - the story behind it represents the very best of ISKL!