The Passing of Two Amazing Weavers in Timor

Sau Sae (1978 – 2016)

Some of you may remember from the March 2013 Threads of Life Newsletter that we discussed the dilemma we had with our Sulawesi weavers using synthetic dyes to achieve their red color. In January 2013 a group of us from Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation met with the heads of each weaving group to discuss this problem. We met ‘half way’ between Bali and their villages. This was in Mamaju, Sulawesi: a day’s travel and 800 km by air for us, and a day’s very rough travel over 70 km by road for them. We then spent 3 days dyeing together to discuss recipe proportions as well as plant resources.

Sau Sae was part of the royal clan of Boti, where she lived with her uncle, the current king. Sau was not yet married so it is still not determined who will bring up the baby. For now the child is being raised by a relative of the the family in the upper area of the family compound. He is very loved from what we could see with all the family cuddling and kissing him.

Sau’s baby is now cared for by the community

Theresia Ale Ngaing of Helong (1932 – 2016)

Our last stop of the field trip was Helong, where we again saddened by news of a death. Theresia Ale Ngaing, the elderly weaver who had led the revival of her community’s textile tradition, had died. In 2006, when we found Theresia, she was the last in her ethnic group still using natural dyes. She was sick and heartbroken that her tradition was dieing, but found a new lease on life when Threads of Life recognized her stewardship of her art and gave her an opportunity to make income from her work. Her example inspired others and now her daughter, granddaughter and three members of the extended family carry the tradition.

Theresia’s son Sam told us how she died. “She had been ill and in hospital. Then three days before she died she asked to be taken home. She gave me the key to her cupboard and told me that the money from her weaving sales was hidden there. She asked me to divide the cash out among her grandchildren. It came to more than 13 million rupiah [US$1,000]. The next day she laid down and closed her eyes as the sun set and the full moon rose – and passed away.”

Sam with his sister Maria and her daughter Nelci told the story of how Theresia passed away

A Sem Beklobe man’s hip cloth from Helong

Theresia was still tying threads for her next textile, which we were to pick up in March, right up to when she was last taken to hospital. How remarkable that she passed on the art of making these beautiful Helong textile before she left this world.