Wise Steps Towards Revitalizing The Traditional Textiles of Belu

The weavers of Loo Neke in Belu are always eager to see us. Mama Rosa built this house from her textile sales to Threads of Life

I have been visiting the various areas of West Timor now for the past two years and there is one area where the weavers really stands out in my experience. This is in Loo Neke, in the regency of Belu. I find that the weavers here have a certain light! They are always eager to receive us when we visit and enjoy laughing and joking with us. Usually all of the members of the weaving group show up for our visit and are eager to share their challenges and successes.

It seems that this group’s members are particularly interested in finding solutions to their problems. Together we have talked about the need to plant more dye plants so they have enough materials for their ongoing production. The group uses more of the Morinda roots than any other group I know! Their dye process requires re-dying the threads as many as sixteen times in the red to achieve the color they desire.

The weavers of Loo Neke require a large amount of Morinda roots for their red dye work

The weavers each have designated gardens where they grow cotton and Morinda for their production needs

To anticipate the ongoing needs for Morinda roots, the group decided that each weaver needed to plant ten trees in their own gardens. We went with the weavers to see if this was really the case and saw that every weaver had planted many cuttings and that they were sprouting healthy leaves. The gardens were fenced so that pigs, goats and cows could not get in and destroy the young plants. We also saw lots of cotton plants in blossom around the entire village as the weavers of Loo Neke use a lot of handspun thread in their textile work.

The efforts to revitalize the traditional weaving of this community are also apparent in the number of young people that are now beginning to weave and are learning the natural dye process. The older women who know the more difficult motifs are beginning to hand these down to new weavers. These efforts have certainly manifested in the superb quality of the textiles that they had ready for us this time. There was a wider range of motifs and different types of textiles than they have ever made before.

A beautiful Tais Maruka Raroti textil, the name of which refers to the structure of the cloth and the beautiful buna supplementary warp wrap technique

Mama Rosa still remembers many different textiles patterns and is happy having sold a lovely handspun piece that she reproduced from memory

Additionally, the group has decided that when one of them makes a piece that has not been produced in the recent years, they will not sell it, but keep it for their own use. This demonstrates a great pride in their culture and keeps the tradition they have inherited from their ancestors alive.

When we brought the new textiles back to Threads of Life office, our colleagues were all excited and we had a hard time deciding what to sell and what to keep in the collection. I am wondering what new textiles they will have for us next time we visit in July.

It was difficult to choose which textiles to sell in the gallery and which to keep in the collection as the new benchmarks for Loo Neke work