Revitalizing the Textile Culture in Tapobali, Lembata

After five years, the weavers of Ina Tula Tani have revived the tradition of weaving their natural dyed kreot nai juan textiles.

After five years, the weavers of Ina Tula Tani have revived the tradition of weaving their natural dyed kreot nai juan textiles.

After five years of support by Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation, the Ina Tula Tani community group of weavers in Tapobali on Lembata Island has successfully revived their natural-dye textile tradition. The weavers are very pleased and are eager to continue to improve their skills of spinning cotton and refining their natural dyes to achieve even higher quality!  This is really remarkable as they had to learn to spin cotton and make natural dyes as well as plant all of these resources starting from nothing.

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Savu to Rai Jua

Seas around Timor and Savu are often very calm before the change of monsoon

Seas around Timor and Savu are often very calm before the change of monsoon

Trying to schedule a trip to Savu and Rai Jua islands is always a challenge – the timing needs to be such that it is late enough in the year so that the weavers have completed their textile work but not too late so that we have angin barat (the West Wind) where the seas are so high we cannot make sea crossings.

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New Products and Livelihoods for Timor

A few of the members of the Nek Mese weaving group.

A few of the members of the Nek Mese weaving group.

On this trip to Timor I went with a very specific purpose: to look for non-cotton fibers that are growing in the communities we currently are working in that may be used for a new product. We decided to start in Bokong, Amanatun, where we have a good working relationship with not only the weavers but their husbands, as this new product would most likely be one that the weavers husbands would make.

 

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A Month of Ceremonies In Tenganan

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The village street of Tenganan Pegeringsingan.

Tenganan Pegeringsingan is a well known village in Bali, best known for the famous double-ikat geringsing textiles. Every year from mid-June there is a full month of ceremonies called Ngusaba Sambah during which the women and men of the village are often dressed in their finest traditional costumes.

 

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Threads of Life Long Term Commitment to Reviving Traditions

An antique textile from Helong used as a point of discussion in reviving the Helong textile

An antique textile from Helong used as a point of discussion in reviving the Helong textile

Threads of Life began to work with a few weavers in Bolok, West Timor, in 2008. These weavers are ethnically referred to as Helong from the old kingdom on the nearby island of Semau. The kingdom of Helong fell to the Timorese kingdom or Amarasi during the Dutch times. While most Helong people now  live not far from Amarasi, the Helong textiles still reflect their own culture. The name for a Helong men’s hipcloth is Sem Beklobe while the name of Amarasi textiles with a similar structure is Tai Muti. The motifs also remain. The fringe of the Helong textile is unique and is said to resemble clove flowers.

 

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The Work of Reviving Batak Textiles

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To grow enough plants to make the natural dyes requires time and patience.

When Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation began to work in Sumatra last year with the support of Sandra Niessen and funds from the Dutch Embassy, we initially focused on the area of Muara on the south end of Lake Toba with the aim of helping traditional weavers recover their natural dye processes. After a year, the colors are beginning to emerge but we still have a ways to go. Growing enough dye plants to make the colors will take time and patience.

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Dayak Longhouses

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This longhouse contains 29 separate family apartments.

A Dayak longhouse isn’t just the focal point of a village: it is the village. These imposing structures, sometimes over 200 meters long, can contain dozens of separate family apartments, as well as public spaces for cooking, blacksmithing, ceremonies, and social life. The ongoing transformation of West Kalimantan from a remote jungle fastness to a sprawling agricultural hinterland is placing new pressures on longhouse communities, which respond to those pressures in different ways.

 

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Adat Houses of Bokong

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Fields near Bokong. Threads of Life botanists have collected rare plants in these fields.

Threads of Life field teams have been visiting Bokong for three years, but had never had an opportunity to visit their traditional clan houses, which stand about three kilometers away from the village proper. On this trip, Wenten made sure to set aside a few hours to see the clan houses.

 

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Batak Carvings

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A traditional Batak house, with high peaks and walls that lean outwards.

North Sumatra is still dotted with clusters of beautiful traditional houses, called umah godang, long houses on stilts with boat-shaped roofs and distinct sculptural features. Each umah godang is also paired with a rice barn called a sopo, which stands facing the main house across a central square. The arrangement is similar to traditional villages in Tana Toraja, in the mountains of central Sulawesi.

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Putussibau: The Heart of Borneo

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A traditional Dayak longhouse raised on stilts beside the river.

Putussibau is deep in the interior of Borneo, close to the border with Malaysia. The town is in the high reaches of the Kapuas River system, about six hours by bus from the larger city of Sintang. Putissibau and the small villages in the nearby forests are outposts of an embattled Dayak culture, which is under assault on all sides: from the government, which is developing the forest, transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia, and foreign missionaries.

 

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