Moving Towards a Brighter Future

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Cecilia (right) and Ilda from the Alola Foundation joined Threads of Life’s team to visit Oecusi weavers groups

The Threads of Life team of Wenten, Willy and myself joined our collegues Cecilia, Louis, Ilda and Casiano from the Alola Foundation for a 7-day visit to Oecusi, the small enclave of Timor Leste which is surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. We went to visit weaving groups that Alola is currently working with and to assess how vibrant the traditional weaving arts are.

 

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Weavers At the End of the World

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y trip started off with a big surprise – the new airport in Makassar!

Whenever I am getting ready to go to visit our weaving groups in West Sulawesi I have the feeling that I am going to the end of the world. I now bring along my own provisions of food, and acidophilus tablets to balance my stomach as food is often hard to come by. Then I hope that the travel conditions will have improved somewhat from previous years. It has been two years since I was last able to make my way to the remote area where the weavers live and while I worry about the travel I think about what they have to deal with all the time. My first big surprise of the trip was seeing the new airport in Makassar which is positioning itself for international arrivals in Indonesia!

 

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Back to the Loom and the Land

Tutut and Wenten flying in the small 20 seat plane to Savu

Tutut and Wenten flying in the small 20 seat plane to Savu

Transportation to Savu is always a challenge. You can fly to Savu from Kupang once a week on the small Cassa 212 which has a capacity of 20 people. Or there is the ferry that leaves from Kupang twice a week to Savu. When the winds blow from the west (angin barat) from October to March, it brings high seas and strong winds and the ferries often will not leave port. So Tutut and I felt very lucky this time to get a seat on the airplane to Savu from Kupang.

 

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Lots of Walking in Lamaholot

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Traveling with our friends from Timor-Leste. From left to right Luis, Cecilia and Willy

This year we have made several visits to the islands of Lembata and Adonara in the Lamaholot area east of Flores. There is still one more visit planned before the weavers turn their attention from their weaving to their gardens as the rainy season arrives. The rains will make travel too difficult for us until the next dry season. This trip was made more special by having our friends, Luis and Cecilia from Timor-Leste, along with us. Luis and Cecilia work with the Alola Foundation and are now on an intern program with Threads of Life. We are hoping to share with them some of our knowledge of how to work with traditional weaving groups so that they can do the same work in Timor-Leste.

 

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Hadi Wiyono – Dedicated to Art and Tradition

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Lolet and Putra Susangka made their way to the home of one of the last stamp makers for the batik art in Java

Lolet and I traveled to Java to meet with batik artists working with Threads of Life. We made a detour to visit Hadi Wiyono in Yogjakarta. Hadi is one of the few remaining well-known stamp makers in Java. These stamps are used in the production of batiks and were introduced by the Dutch to speed up production.

 

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The Simple but Profound Textiles of Adonara

For years I have passed by the island of Adonara on my way to Lembata

For years I have passed by the island of Adonara on my way to Lembata

At least twice a year I make the trip to Lembata to meet with weavers’ groups. We always take a ferry that leaves from Larantuka, Flores and pass the islands of Adonara and Solor on our way. This June was the first time I actually visited the island of Adonara. To me there is a remarkable difference between Lembata and Adonara, Lembata being dry and barren and Adonara being more fertile.

 

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Tapobali, a New Village Living with the Old Ways

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A Kreot Nai Telon three part textile used in the ritual gift exchange at marriage

Tapobali was officially recognized as a village by the Indonesian government in March 2008. This village is actually comprised of five different clan settlements who have lived in this area for centuries. Most of the population are seasonal farmers and fishermen. The women weave when they are not in the fields tending their gardens as traditional textiles are still being made as part of the ritual gift exchange at the time of marriage.

There are two types of textiles that are used at this ritual exchange; the Kreot Nai Telon (made of three widths of textile sewn together) and the Kreot Nai Juan (made of two widths).

 

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Wise Steps Towards Revitalizing The Traditional Textiles of Belu

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The weavers of Loo Neke in Belu are always eager to see us. Mama Rosa built this house from her textile sales to Threads of Life

I have been visiting the various areas of West Timor now for the past two years and there is one area where the weavers really stands out in my experience. This is in Loo Neke, in the regency of Belu. I find that the weavers here have a certain light! They are always eager to receive us when we visit and enjoy laughing and joking with us. Usually all of the members of the weaving group show up for our visit and are eager to share their challenges and successes.

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Threads of Life and the Fundasaun Alola Working together to Revive the Traditional Textiles of Timor Leste

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Fundasaun Alola works with women and children in Timor Leste

Timor Leste is the very poor eastern end of the island of Timor that gained independence from Indonesia in 1999. Fundasaun Alola works with women and children in Timor Leste in the areas of maternal and child health, education, economic development and advocacy. Alola’s motto is “”Strong Women Strong Nation””, to give women a voice for change in the new nation. (www.Alolafoundation.org)

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The Blue of Hamba Praing

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Full moon over the coastal plain at the end of the monsoon

The coastal road west of East Sumba’s main town of Waingapu sees little traffic. The villages are few and far between on a coastal plain that slopes up from the foreshore’s mangroves to the foot of an escarpment. Houses are surrounded by fenced cornfields, but most of the thin and rocky soil is given to savannah grasses and the livestock that they feed. Indigo (indigofera tinctoria) is also grown, and where it is seen, weavers and dyers are sure to be found.

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