Threads of Life Around Indonesia
Our pictures (and yours!) from the communities we work with throughout Indonesia (Sumba, Flores, Sulawesi. Bali and more). Includes ceremonial, ritual and day…
Older women usually wear traditional dress when going to market in Timor. Initially, this was how Threads of Life found weavers to begin to work with – we spotted amazing textiles and chatted with them and ended up in their homes talking about their families and weaving.
Why are the Sekomandi cloths so dear to our heart? Let us tell you a story. In May of 1999, Threads of Life staff member I Made Maduarta (Pung) set off for the Karataun highlands in search of traditional sekomandi weavers. “It was like the end of the world,” said Pung. Since that first trip, Pung has returned to Karataun every year, penetrating one day’s ride farther up the mountain tracks. Slowly, they have built trust with local weavers, and have helped to establish weavers’ coops.
In 2020 (and now 2021) it was impossible for us to make our annual visits to our weaving community partners. Many have put strict regional quarantines in place in order to protect their people from COVID. Some communities are are still able to talk with us via social media or phones, others have been unreachable. Perhaps they've been unable to get into an area with phone signal with quarantines in place or have been unable to get phone credit.
The symbolic visual language of Toraja is present in every type of craft, whether etched into the wood of traditional houses or woven into their spectacular textiles. Each motif is defined by a long tradition, and each element in the design carries a culturally symbolic meaning. These patterns comprise a sophisticated variety of geometric, curvilinear and pictorial forms that express the important relationships to the ancestors, society and the earth.
In landscapes that have changed from subsistence agroforestry systems (that once provided food, medicines, fibers and dyes, and materials for building, toolmaking and rituals), into commodity-based forest gardens (that produce coffee, chocolate, cloves, cashews, candlenut, and other cash crops), we have been working to establish cultivation of formerly wild-crafted dye plants.
We live in a world that knows no boundaries. But for the indigenous people of Indonesia, boundaries are always potent invitations to see ourselves in new ways and change the ways we relate to the human and more-than-human world. Where the textile arts remain vital, they are among the primary expressions of this worldview.
Indonesian weavers are famous for a tie-dye technique called ikat, meaning ’’to tie a knot.’’ The weaver stretches her warp or weft on a wooden frame and ties strands of palm leaf or plastic raffia around small bundles of threads. After hours of tying, the bindings begin to form patterns: stylized plants and animals, motifs declaring clan and status, pictures and words that illustrate ancient myths and recent events.
In West Timor, some weavers wrap knots of bright thread around the warps between passes of the weft, a technique called buna. A buna garment can take over a year to complete, and only certain communities take the time to make large buna designs. Buna masters carefully hide the ends of each wrapping, making the textile identical on front and back. The Timorese create electrifying buna patterns of explosive creativity.
Thank you @eskayel! "I have always loved the photos from the village in Sumba where my designs were first turned into Indigo Ikat weavings. The collaboration was made possible by @threadsoflifebali an organization dedicated to sustaining the textile arts of Indonesia. Thinking of them now as they have had to close their shop and are putting many of their amazing textiles online for purchase so they can continue to support the weavers."⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Tuban, a small rural province in east Java, is one of the last remaining pockets where traditional, hand-drawn batik coloured with natural dyes still survives. Tuban’s rare village-based artistic production has often been passed over. Tuban batik preserves the visual elements of rural Javanese culture which were once widespread but are now almost entirely extinct.
Before Indian and European trade brought commercial cotton cloths, Javanese women grew cotton plants, spun the thread by hand and drew batik designs in molten wax. International trade brought to batik production wax-ready fabrics and the dizzying array of colours and patterns it is now known for, but the advent of cheaper, factory-made batik has resulted in an almost total loss of traditional techniques. By the 20th century, natural dye recipes & handwoven fabrics had nearly vanished from Java.
The sarita is a sacred Torajan cloth made with wax resist-dyed patterns. Sarita cloths are believed to be mystical in origin and are indicative of high status, bringing wealth to the family that owns them. In the past, both Toraja men and women wore the #sarita as a hip wrap; this is the first time this type of cloth has been produced in many decades among the Karutaun To Mangki.