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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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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Back to the Loom and the Land

Tutut and Wenten flying in the small 20 seat plane to Savu

Tutut and Wenten flying in the small 20 seat plane to Savu

Transportation to Savu is always a challenge. You can fly to Savu from Kupang once a week on the small Cassa 212 which has a capacity of 20 people. Or there is the ferry that leaves from Kupang twice a week to Savu. When the winds blow from the west (angin barat) from October to March, it brings high seas and strong winds and the ferries often will not leave port. So Tutut and I felt very lucky this time to get a seat on the airplane to Savu from Kupang.

 

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Savu and Rai Jua Revisited After Ten Years

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The beauty and delicacy of the Savunese women and their textiles

The last time I visited the small islands of Savu and Rai Jua was ten years ago with a group of textile enthusiasts who joined us aboard the Perintis, a buginese schooner designed to bring small tour groups to the outer islands. I have vivid memories of the rich culture we saw: the gorgeous women and their textiles, the delicate dances and enchanting traditional songs. Making the trip to Savu and Rai Jua in May this year was like returning to a dream, as I have carried the memory of these islands in hopes of returning to deepen my understanding.

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A Stitch in Time

SavuDec2008_1I have always wondered about the interesting stitching at the head and foot of each Savu sarong textile. This last trip I asked Ina Hale in Namata, who is a member of the Hawu Miha weaver group. She told me that this stitching is calledbunga wurumada. Bunga means decoration or flower andwarumada refers to the head and foot of the textile. It indicates that the weaver has taken responsibility for completing the textile, both technically and ritually. After the textile is taken off the loom, the warp threads are cut and then the two ends are sewn together to create a tube sarong worn by a woman. Before sewing the textile, the weaver must sacrifice a chicken. Continue reading »