The Role of Culture in Development:
The Bebali Foundation’s Culture-Ecology-Livelihoods Learning System (CELLS)

How do you facilitate profitable, scalable and sustainable business development for indigenous producers that aligns with their customary values and uplifts their cultural identity? Or put another way, since introducing market-based initiatives to indigenous communities brings together the conflicting value systems of the global market and the indigenous community, how do you develop livelihood opportunities while seeking to maintain cultural integrity? The answer to these questions is not to avoid economic development as most communities are already engaged in the cash economy and the global market. Rather, the economic development requires a careful balancing of the profit motivated, growth-oriented values of business with the custom-bound, cyclic-natural-systems orientation of indigenous culture.
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Tea & Textile Tales: Our first Pop-Up Store

Tea and Textile Tales

We are bringing Threads of Life and tales of the spice trade to Biku in Seminyak for a special one-day only event. Come and learn about Indonesia’s incredible textile arts heritage and maybe even fall in love with a few pieces.

The Threads of Life team will have textiles, baskets, cushions and more for you to browse, so come in and talk to us about the places the textiles come from, the cooperatives that created them and what dyes were used.

Special Indonesian-inspired high tea begins at 3pm, along with a talk by Threads of Life founder William Ingram who will take us on a journey across Indonesia and through 2000 years of pan-Asian trade as evidenced in the amazing designs and motifs we see today.

Exhibition & pop-up store: 10am – 10pm
Reservations for tea essential: Rp. 110,000 p/ person (Update: SOLD OUT)

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Collaboration with Rana Helmi

If you visit our Ubud Gallery, you will find some beautiful pieces of of wearable art. in 2014, we collaborated with Rana Helmi to turn some of the textiles in vests, coats and other winter wear. Some of the pieces modeled here by our very own Jean Howe!


A beautiful collaboration between Threads of Life and Rana Helmi

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Threads of Life withdraws from the WFTO

Threads of Life has been a part of the fair trade movement since we began working with Indonesia’s traditional weavers in 1997. In 2004 we became a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, which in its own words, “represents Fair Traders from grassroots through to the G8 and is the authentic voice of Fair Trade, having driven the movement for 20 years. It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.” As of 2013, Threads of Life has withdrawn its membership of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). Nothing has changed in terms of Threads of Life’s practices and values. We are still the same fair trade organization, but we feel that the WFTO has changed and no longer properly represents our participation in the full fair trade chain.

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Challenging Times in Kalumpang, Sulawesi


Mapping dye plant resources in Sulawesi

In December 2012 we received a shipment of three bales containing 84 textiles from the most remote communities we work with in the Kalumpang region of West Sulawesi. (See the May 2011 Field Notes). The shipment included 57 of the large 150 x 200 cm (60 x 80 inch) Sekomandi and Marilotong textiles, and 27 smaller Selendangs. This seemed like yet another triumph for our work with a group of weavers that has grown from two to 54 women over the course of ten years. The weavers’ isolation means our field staff get to visit them at most once a year. So to help the weavers gain access to Threads of Life and other potential buyers, we have been facilitating the development of seven weavers’ cooperatives. In this way, weavers work together, combining their efforts and pooling resources so that they can ship textiles to us when we are unable to visit them. This process had been going well since 2009, but suddenly with the most recent shipment, something appeared to be wrong.

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Behind Being

I met filmmaker Quincy Davis in March, when he asked to interview me for a documentary he was planning to make about the importance of culture and community. I said yes and we spent a couple of hours talking in front of his camera. He just sent me the trailer for his film, and it is amazingly beautiful, both visually and in the way the images expand the narrative.

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Lou Zeldis, In Memoriam

Upon entering the Threads of Life gallery, and looking to the left, a strikingly modern batik is usually hanging full-length on the far wall. Made in the traditional natural-dye colors of central Java by the artisans at a batik studio in the city of Solo, the designs being employed have taken tradition and spun it on its head! The force behind all this creativity, intended to keep a traditional batik studio going in between orders from the Surakarta palace’s royal family, was Lou Zeldis, an American artist of exceptional talent and a human of unusual kindness.

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Connected and Aligned

ImageAgustina Soly lives 2 days travel from the nearest surfaced road. Her community in the remote highlands of West Sulawesi is beyond the reach of most Indonesian government services. People are very self-reliant here. Agustina is the school teacher and the coordinator for 7 weavers’ cooperatives with a total membership of 56 women. Weaving is an important source of income, and making traditional textiles is a huge source of cultural pride.


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