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 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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A Commitment to the Textile Arts of Sintang, Kalimantan

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The Kapuas River is the longest river in Indonesia

Kalimantan is the largest of Indonesia’s 14,000 islands with the country’s longest river, the Kapuas, running north-south in the west of the island. The town of Sintang is on this river ten hours by road from Pontinank, the capital of West Kalimantan. It is a wearying trip from Bali to Jakarta and Pontinak by air and then continuing by car. I traveled with Pung and Frog who work with Threads of Life’s sister organization, the YPBB Foundation. They have been working with weavers in Sintang for the past five years.

 

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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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