Twitter users make snide remarks about world leaders' batik shirts at G20, Indonesians clap back

Wearing the cultural outfits of the host country has always been part of tradition.

Audrey Hadi | November 18, 2022, 12:11 PM

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The G20 Summit in Bali just concluded on Wednesday (Nov. 16).

In addition to the many pressing topics that made headlines during the summit, it has also attracted quite a bit of controversy elsewhere on the internet.

This occurred after several Twitter users, who appear to have limited knowledge about Indonesia’s cultural heritage, made snide comments about the outfits the world leaders were wearing.

What's with the "weird clothes" they're wearing?

One user, "Mahyar Tousi", commented, “What on earth are these idiots wearing?!” in reference to the summit’s Gala Dinner picture that captured Indonesian Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan, UK PM Rishi Sunak, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, and WEF founder Klaus Schwab, among others, in a conversation.

The tweet received more than 1,000 "likes" from Twitter users before it was deleted.

In the pictures taken, most leaders were seen wearing endek shirts, except Zulkifli Hasan, who wore a batik shirt.

Endek is a Balinese traditional handwoven fabric, while batik is an Indonesian traditional textile usually in the form of hand-dyed cotton or silk. At a first glance, both could look relatively similar, and even Indonesians still find it difficult to distinguish between the two.

A few others questioned the choice of clothing as well.

Sophie Corcoran, a controversial British broadcaster, asked why are they all dressed "the same" and "like that".

Another comment comes from a Canadian journalist, Keean Bexte, who straight-up called the traditional clothing "weird clothes".

These tweets had gathered much traction on the platform, garnering at least thousands of "likes" and retweets.

Indonesians hit back

Unsurprisingly, the comments resulted in a backlash from many Indonesians, who flooded those tweets with comebacks of their own.

Many said sarcastically that almost no one bothers to do a quick research these days.

Niluh Djelantik, an Indonesian designer and entrepreneur, in her response, said the leaders were wearing endek, adding that it can take days or even months to finish one piece.

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A post shared by Niluh Djelantik (@niluhdjelantik)

Another Indonesian Twitter user, responding to a comment that made fun of the leaders wearing similar-looking outfits, said at least they are wearing something that's "more fun" and "more diverse" than "black suits in similar events outside of Indonesia".

Yet another user was more direct in her response. Besides explaining that these traditional clothes are a gift from Indonesia as the host country, she told Bexte not to insult her country's clothes and culture.

Dresscode was national costume or Indonesian traditional outfit

The summit’s gala dinner guests had the options to wear either their national costume or the Indonesian traditional outfit given to them from the hosting committee.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for instance, was clad in his national costume, while Trudeau, Sunak and even Chinese President Xi Jinping opted for the Indonesian traditional textile.

Image via Media Center KTT G20

Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, explained during the press conference on Nov. 15 that he hopes the world leaders in attendance can add on to the “wow effect” when wearing them, seeing as they are the ultimate influencers in their respective countries.

He also brought up the example of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president, who inadvertently popularised batik internationally ever since he started wearing his first batik outfit that he received from Soeharto, Indonesia’s former president.

Having a traditional dresscode is relatively common across Asia, especially at large-scale international events like the G20 Summit.

The host country often gives the participants traditional shirts or outfits both as a gift and as an attire to wear at the event.

Dating back to 1994, when Indonesia hosted the APEC Ministerial Meeting, world leaders at that time, including Bill Clinton, wore batik shirts.

Image via APEC

Similarly, in 2017 at Asean's 31st Summit in Manila, leaders wore the typical Filipino barong and baro't saya.

Image via Asean

Never get on the bad side of Indonesian netizens

Tousi has since apologised for the “unintentional offence” he has caused, saying he has “no bad intentions” and was “unaware’ of the culture”. He also claimed to have received death threats, as well as messages from both Indonesian citizens and government officials about his tweets.

Perhaps what he learnt from this brief episode is to not repeat the mistaked other foreigners have done previously without considering the huge number of Indonesian internet users, as this Twitter user points out:

According to Statista, as of January 2022, Indonesia’s Twitter users number around 18.45 million. In addition, based on the Indonesian Internet Provider’s Association’s (APJII) data, the country’s internet penetration is 77 per cent in 2022, which is quite sizeable considering the population size of over 270 million.

This makes picking a fight with Indonesians on any popular social media platform a sure way to get cancelled on the internet.

Top image adapted via The Beijing News & Twitter