Field Notes Guam

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“How can I identify with the culture of my grandfathers and grandmothers and still participate in this modern society?”

In 2010 the University of Guam wrote a grant to bring a Threads of Life exhibition as well as a Traditional Teacher to Guam. The exhibit was to show the material culture of the remote traditional communities of Indonesia that Threads of Life works with and the sense of pride that these communities have for these cultural expressions as seen in the quality of their work.

 

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Machi Textiles of Fais Island

Photographs and Original Documentation by Donald Rubinstein and Sophiano Limol

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The island of Fais in the Carolina Islands of Micronesia.

In March Threads of Life presented an exhibition of textiles at the Isla Gallery of the University of Guam. During our time there we were able to meet with Dr. Donald Rubinstein, an anthropologist and faculty of the Micronesia Studies Program. In 2001 Donald along with a young man, Sophiano Limol, proposed a cultural revival program for Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. As Sophiano is from the 2-kilometer-long island of Fais in Yap, the important ceremonial machi textile from Fais was chosen as the focus of this revival.

 

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Meeting the Weavers of Sumba Face to Face

By Threads of Life Gallery Staff: Iluh, Desak and Lia

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(Left to right) Iluh, Lia and Desak. Our flight from Denpasar to Sumba.

We have been working in the Threads of Life Gallery in Ubud Bali as sales staff for the past number of years. We often sell textiles woven by weavers in Sumba so we recognize all of their names, but this March we had the chance to actually fly to Sumba and meet the weavers face to face.

 

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Supporting the Weaving and Traditional Arts

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Heading inland to Putussibau from Sintang requires a ride of 8 hours by motorbike or 6 hours by car

Threads of Life has been working for many years in West Kalimantan around the area of Sintang which is about a 9 hour drive from Pontianak. Our work in Sintang continues but we decided to head more inland towards Putussibau in the district of Kapuas Hulu to see if there are other weaving traditions that Threads of Life might be able to support. Kapuas Hulu is home tothe Taman Dayak, Iban, Kayaan and Punan, Kenyah, Kelabit ethnic groups among others.

 

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Reviving Textiles of the Batak Toba

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Lake Toba is the largest lake on any island in the world. The lake was formed by one of history’s biggest volcanic eruptions

Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and home to many ethnic groups speaking more than 50 different languages. Batak is a term that actually includes several ethnic groups found in Northern Sumatra near Lake Toba, and includes the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing Batak. Each have distinct languages and customs. Historically, local textiles (ulos) have reflected these ethnic differences but today there is much innovation with designs moving across all groups.

 

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The Copper Roaster Crows

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Lontar palms growing on Savu look much like the landscape in my village on Bali

The high point for me this year was bringing some of our friends from Savu over to Bali for the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival. Over the years that I have been visiting Savu I have been amazed at how comfortable I always feel there.  Perhaps it is because so much of the way of life in Savu is similar to the dry north coast of Bali where I grew up.  I see it in the ways that they use rituals to evoke prosperity, harmony and health between the realms of humans, animals and nature.  In Bali we call this Tri Hita Karana.

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Making Great Strides in West Timor

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The women of the Com Esa weavers’ group of Helong, under the guidance of Thersia Ngaing (in front with pink shirt)

In 2008 when we first sought out weavers in the Helong area, Thersia Alle Ngaing was in her late 60s and was the last woman who still had the knowledge required to weave the ethnic group’s traditional textiles. Today 11 women work with Thersia. Together they have revived the natural dye art by weaving both the woman’s Sembeg Hata textile and the mans’ Sembeg Klobe hip cloth.

 

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The Joka Ju Festival in Nggela

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Accepting an invitation to the annual Joka Ju ceremony in Nggela, Flores

Early July I received a text message from one of the traditional leaders in Nggela, Flores, inviting me to attend the traditional harvest ceremony, Joka Ju. I was eager to make this trip to learn more about the ceremonies of this very traditional community in central Flores. Joka Ju is a ritual that takes place every year according to the traditional calendar of Nggela. The purpose of the ceremony is to purify the village and its population having just completed an agricultural season.

 

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The Many Uses of a Clay Pot

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Anastasia Bete selling earthenware pots at the Ua Bau market in Belu

I first met Anastasia Bete at the weekly market in Ua Bau, Belu in 2008. Mama Anastasia was selling simple but elegant earthenware pots that are still used for cooking corn, beans and vegetables as well as natural dyes over wood fires. She told me that she can only make these pots during the dry season. I bought the pots she had with her and said I would like to visit her in her village to understand how she was making these pots.

 

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