Timor Weavers

TimorNov2008_1Theresia Alle Ngaing is a weaver in her 60s from the Helong ethnic group of Kupang, Timor. In 2006, when Willy first met her, she was often sick. She could do no red dyeing as there were no local Morinda trees. Willy had her ikat-patterned threads dyed in Amarasi. She and her daughter then wove with these threads. As I sat with Theresia admiring the newly finished pieces, she told me her health and enthusiasm had returned. She feels useful again and is eager to revive Helong`s textile tradition.


TimorNov2008_2Bernadetha Abi from the region of Insana, began making textiles viagrapill when she was a small girl. Usually we buy handspun natural dyed ikat textiles from her, but this last trip she showed us a wonderful betel nut bag that she made, called aol mamat, which is fringed with very long threads. Each bundle of fringed threads is wrapped with alternating red and white threads. The body of the bag contains buna or weft wrap technique depicting lizards. I have only ever seen a bag with this type of fringing in the collection at the National Gallery of Australia and I really admired it. So I was happy to see this technique is still being made.


TimorNov2008_3I was interested to hear Mama Rosa in the Belu regency talk about the ritual aspects of textile production: Human creativity requires the support of Father Sky, Mother Earth, and the Divine Ancestors. When a weaver works with plant materials – transforming cotton into thread, roots and leaves into dyes, combining these into a finished textile – she must evoke the protection and guidance of these Divine Powers. Mama Rosa said she routinely performs ceremonies during the course of making a natural-dyed textile. I feel that because of this strong connection to nature, Mama Rosa`s textiles have a strong feeling, like a vibration.”