Finding Ways to Meet the Weavers in 2021

The eruption of Ile Lewotolok on the north side of Lembata island.

January 2021 has continued 2020’s intensity for our weaver communities around Indonesia as they deal not only with the economic and health crises of Covid, but have had a 6.2 earthquake on January 15 in Sulawesi.

We have come to see our weavers as family.

While we have not been able to visit our communities since March 2020, our Bali-based field staff are in weekly contact by WhatsApp with most of the weavers and farmers on the ten islands where we work. We are sending our Timorese field staff Willy to the field this week to purchase from some of the weavers. It is not only for business purposes that we connect with the weavers but also because we have come to see them as our extended family over these past fifteen years of working together, and we want to see firsthand how they are doing and what they need.

Textiles from Lembata that we hope to buy more of in 2021.

The eruption on Lembata in November 2020 has since abated and fortunately there is now rain so farmers can go to work planting crops. Overtime, the ash from the eruption will add to soil fertility. Our weavers on the south side of the island did not experience ash fall as a result of that eruption and we hope that we can purchase textiles and baskets from them this year.

Savu weaver Ina Koro standing next to traditional house in Mehara.

On the island of Savu, we have spoken to Obo Dule many times along with other weavers who have told us that the rains have finally started again after an extreme draught from June through December 2020. They tell us that cotton yarn that they need for weaving has increased in price 300% since March 2021. As a result, most women have stopped weaving. This appears to be true on the neighboring island of Raijua as well. We have several lovely textiles both women’s ceremonial skirts and men’s hip cloths from Savu and Raiju. The hip cloths are wonderful as a throw on a couch and the smaller textiles make great accents.

Many regions of Timor are locked down, making visits difficult or impossible.

On Timor, Covid numbers have increased and communities remain very afraid. Some regions have totally locked down, only allowing people in with a negative Covid test. With the fear of Covid, there are few domestic tourists who might buy textiles from weaver groups at this time. Here is a link to some wonderful textiles.

The deep indigo work for which Hama Perangu is famous on Sumba.

We were able to contact two of our weavers in Sumba and we have one very large Hinggi from Rindi kingdom available online. The dragons on this textile are wonderful and appear at both the head and foot of the textile. We hope to buy other Sumbanese textiles from another weavers group that focuses on the deep indigo dye work as one of the weavers reports that she has two textiles in process. 

The alum rich powder from dried fallen Symplocos leaves is an essential mordant in the red dye process.

On Flores, we are still trying to contact our communities in three different areas to inquire about their textiles. One of the most important areas is where we buy the Symplocos plant mordant alum source for the red dye. We primarily sell the Symplocos to the weaving communities, but also have domestic and international markets. Threads of Life has purchased more than a ton a year of these dried fallen leaves but it is unclear what we will be able to purchase until we can get back to the forests ourselves. 

Sulawesi weavers with sekomandi and morilotong textiles.

On Sulawesi, we have not been able to contact any of the weavers who are up in the mountains after the earthquake that struck in January. It is likely that the roads are very dangerous and so it is unclear when any of the weavers can come down to bring textiles to send to us. But we are in contact with one of the weaver’s sons who will try to get to the villages in the mountains this week where his mother lives. We hope to get cash into the hands of some of these weavers as soon as we can after hearing that weavers’ homes in the city of Mamuju were destroyed. In the meantime, you can find many of the Sekomandi textiles in our online store along with smaller pieces.

Two beautiful Dayak textiles that will be made into tating or decorated skirts.

On Kalimantan, we have heard from our field staff Lius that the area of Sintang has had severe outbreaks of Covid and remains in the “red” zone. However, he reports that the outlying villages appear to be fairing much better. We have two textiles from this area that will arrive in the next week which will be made into a tating or decorated skirt following local tradition. In the meantime, there are still textiles and baskets in the online shop.

Waxed batik motifs from Tuban, Java that will remain white when the textile is dyed with indigo.

In Tuban on the island of Java, the market for traditional textiles has decreased dramatically, except for the orders which Threads of Life continues to make. Have a look at our Farmer to Fabric products which all made with handspun, handloomed textiles from these women.

A natural dyed rangrang from Nusa Penida is lovely as a wall hanging or bed throw.

We are fortunate that we can be in touch with weavers on Bali more easily and have a number of traditional textiles that are very wearable as shawls and scarves. The cerik langah  is one of our most popular textiles on the online store.