Back on Track

Transportation has improved (above) for travel in the highlands of  Sulawesi since we first began visiting the communities in 2003 (below)

Transportation has improved (above) for travel in the highlands of Sulawesi since we first began visiting the communities in 2003 (below)

Some of you may remember from the March 2013 Threads of Life Newsletter that we discussed the dilemma we had with our Sulawesi weavers using synthetic dyes to achieve their red color. In January 2013 a group of us from Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation met with the heads of each weaving group to discuss this problem. We met ‘half way’ between Bali and their villages. This was in Mamaju, Sulawesi: a day’s travel and 800 km by air for us, and a day’s very rough travel over 70 km by road for them. We then spent 3 days dyeing together to discuss recipe proportions as well as plant resources.
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Textiles, Animism & Mepetik Ceremony in Bali

Telung Oton or Mepetik at the home of Threads of Life staff Komang Darmini

Telung Oton or Mepetik at the home of Threads of Life staff Komang Darmini

The importance of textiles in Balinese ceremonies is most evident in the life cycle ceremonies called Munusa Yadnyathat are celebrated throughout a person’s lifetime. These include the Megedong gedongan (during the seventh month of pregnancy), Dapetan (upon returning to the family house after birth), Kepus Pungsed (a ceremony at the village crossroad at the time the umbilical cord falls off), Mecolong(12 days after birth when the mother and baby can first enter the kitchen), Akambuan (42 days after birth there is another ceremony at the crossroads), Telung Bulanan (3 months), A Oton (6 months), Telung Oton (18 months),Menek Kelih (puberty rite), Mesanggih (toothfiling as a coming of age ceremony), and Pernikahan (marriage).

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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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