Threads Of Life

Lembata Island

Lembata, also known as Lomblen, is the largest island of the Solor Archipelago.  The irregular coastline is indented with bays and peninsulas, and a spine of extinct and active volcanoes runs up its centre. From the northern approach, Lewotolo, better known as Ile Ape, is the most spectacular of these volcanoes as it rises out of the sea to 1,449 metres and swirling clouds of sulphur billow from the crater. Villages huddle along the volcano’s broad base and traditional houses cling to its sides.

While most of the islanders are Christian and the north coast is Muslim, the old ways  of the ancestors are still widely practised. People who live along these active volcanic slopes perform ceremonies to hold the earth and mountains in balance. Agricultural ceremonies are important to ensure that crops will flourish and provide food for the communities who eke out a living on these dry, rocky slopes.

The art of traditional ikat weaving has existed for many generations on the island of Lembata. Most of the ikat textiles of Lembata are made as bridewealth pieces that are exchanged at the time of marriage. Marriages are not made between individuals, but rather between clans, creating strong bonds of indebtedness that may be called upon at any time. For example, people depend on each other to clear sizeable tracts of land for planting, which require large numbers of people to gather together to work.

The textiles of Ile Ape, Atedai, Lamalera and Kedang differ in appearance but are used for the same ritual purposes. As ritual textiles, they must be made from materials provided by the ancestors: cotton, red dye and oils along with indigo and other plants that endow the textile with status and identity.

TenapaTenapa

Ile Ape is located on the north coast of Lembata. Textiles from this area are more geometrical compared to those made on the southern coast. The motifs from Ile Ape appear within small bands throughout the textile with the exception of the tenapa textile which has a full ikat centrefield. There are three types of traditional textiles used for bride wealth gift exchanges: hebakan, ohin and tenapa. All of these textiles require handspun thread and natural dyes. The tenapa is the most highly valued and only a few women have the skills to make this type of cloth.


Kreot Nai Juan

Kreot nai juan is a two-part bride wealth tubular sarong with uncut warps from Topobali on the southern coast of Lembata. It is essential to the gifts that accompany marriage. The three-part (kreot nai telon) textile is considered more valuable in this gift exchange. The more parts: the higher the value of the sarong.

Textiles offered to the groom’s family by the bride’s clan are exchanged for elephant tusks which are held by clans dating back to about the 16th century. With all of these tubular sarongs, the warp threads remain uncut symbolizing the bond and commitment to the community. These textiles are never worn.


Kwatek Nai Rua

Kwatek nai rua is a two-part bride wealth tubular sarong with uncut warps from Lamalara on the southern coast of Lembata. It is essential to the gifts that accompany marriage. The three-part (kwatek nai telo) and five-part (kwatek nai limo) textiles are considered more valuable in this gift exchange. The more sections to the cloth, the higher the value of the sarong.

Textiles offered to the groom’s family by the bride’s clan are exchanged for elephant tusks which are held by clans dating back to about the 16th century. With all of these tubular sarongs, the warp threads remain uncut symbolizing the bond and commitment to the community.


Kwatek Nai Telo

The three-part tubular textile from the southern coast of Lembata is called kwatek nai telo and is essential to the gifts that accompany marriage. Kwatek nai rua or two-part textile is considered less valuable than the kwatek nai telo (three panels) in this gift exchange.

Textiles offered to the groom’s family by the bride’s clan are exchanged for elephant tusks which are held by clans dating back to about the 16th century. With all of these tubular sarongs, the warp threads remain uncut symbolizing the bond and commitment to the community.


Kewatek MenikilKwatek Menikil

kwatek menikil is a two-part textile from the southern coast of Lembata. This type of textile is usually dyed to dark blue or blue-black and woven with handspun threads. It is worn for daily dress.


Ohin

Ile Ape is located on the north coast of Lembata. There are three types of traditional textiles in this area; hebakan, ohin and tenapa. The ohin is predominately red with simple bands of ikat throughout the entire cloth. These textiles are all used as bridewealth textiles with the ohin being the second most valued cloth with the tenapa being the most highly valued and only a few women have the skills to make this latter cloth.

All bridewealth textiles are required to be made of handspun thread and natural dyes as these materials are considered to be gifts from the ancestors.


Hebakan

Ile Ape is located on the north coast of Lembata. There are three types of traditional textiles in this area; hebakanohin and tenapa. The hebakan being predominately black with simple bands of ikat at the two ends. These textiles are all used as bridewealth textiles with the hebakan being more valuable than the ohin. These textiles require handspun thread and natural dyes.


Senai

This one panel textile is locally known as a senai which is a narrow textile woven to be worn over the shoulder or around the neck by a woman to compete her traditional dress.


Nofi

The man’s traditional textile worn by the men in Lamalera on Lembata island  is called a nofi. It is a simple striped textile on a white background. It was traditionally woven out of handspun thread and using natural dyes.

Bleto

The people of Lamalera, a small village perched on the southern shore of Lembata, wear these lontar palm hats in the fields or out at sea.

Long tena boathouses, Lemalera, Lembata.
Long tena boathouses, Lemalera, Lembata.

Most Lamalerans survive by subsistence fishing, and they hunt whales, sharks, manta rays, and tuna in the rich waters just offshore. The village has about twenty working boats, called tena in the Lamaholot language, each of which can carry about a dozen men to sea. Tena are completely handmade, with ropes and even sails woven from the leaves of the giant gabang palm (Corypha utan). Each crewmember has a firm job assignment: some row, some bail, one steers, and one stands in the bow with a bamboo harpoon. Long tena boathouses, Lemalera, Lembata. The fishermen use no guns and no motors. These modern accoutrements are beyond the means of most Lamalera villagers, and their use in only one or two boats would upset the harmony of the community.

  • Traditional Fisherman`s Hat
  • 2007
  • Lamalera village, Lembata
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • 47 x 23 cm. (18.5 x 9 in)
  • Code # C.LE.LA.001

Sidu

The people of Lamalera bail out their handmade fishing boats with these sidubaskets, woven from lontar palm fronds. Large Lamalera fishing boats, called tena, seat about a dozen men, who row, bail, and handle the woven palm-leaf sail. One man stands in the bow with a bamboo harpoon, scanning the waves for sharks, manta rays, and whales. The peoples of eastern Indonesia exploit every part of the lontar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer).

Wilhelmus weaving strips of young lontar leaf, Lembata.
Wilhelmus weaving strips of young lontar leaf, Lembata.

Full-grown lontarleaves are plaited into roofs and sleeping mats. Young, un-opened lontar fronds are curved into containers to carry water or collect palm sap, or are woven into hats, bags, and baskets. Sweet, milky lontar sap is an invaluable source of food for some traditional communities, especially during the long dry seasons. The sap can also be boiled down into nutritious syrup or lumps of red-brown sugar.

  • Bailing Basket
  • 2007
  • Made by Melikor Keraf
  • Lamalera village, Lembata
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 17 cm. (7 in)
  • Code # C.LE.LA.003

Kelekar

The people of Lamalera bail out their handmade fishing boats with these sidubaskets, woven from lontar palm fronds.

Eating from a kelekar lined with banana leaf, Tapobali, Lembata.

Large Lamalera fishing boats, called tena, seat about a dozen men, who row, bail, and handle the woven palm-leaf sail. One man stands in the bow with a bamboo harpoon, scanning the waves for sharks, manta rays, and whales. The peoples of eastern Indonesia exploit every part of the lontar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer). Full-grown lontarleaves are plaited into roofs and sleeping mats. Young, un-opened lontar fronds are curved into containers to carry water or collect palm sap, or are woven into hats, bags, and baskets. Sweet, milky lontar sap is an invaluable source of food for some traditional communities, especially during the long dry seasons. The sap can also be boiled down into nutritious syrup or lumps of red-brown sugar.

  • Bailing Basket
  • 2007
  • Made by Melikor Keraf
  • Lamalera village, Lembata
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 17 cm. (7 in)
  • Code # C.LE.LA.003

Kelekar

The people of Tapobali village scratch a living from the steep, rocky hillsides of southern Lembata. They serve meals of corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes from woven kelekar dishes. The villagers use a wider basket of similar design called a kelekar senedek to winnow the chaff from their dry-field rice.

Eating from a kelekar lined with banana leaf, Tapobali, Lembata.
Eating from a kelekar lined with banana leaf, Tapobali, Lembata.

The peoples of eastern Indonesia exploit every part of the lontar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer). Full-grown lontar leaves are plaited into roofs and sleeping mats. Young, un-opened lontar fronds are curved into containers to carry water or collect palm sap, or are woven into hats, bags, and baskets. Sweet, milky lontar sap is an invaluable source of food for some traditional communities, especially during the long dry seasons. The sap can also be boiled down into nutritious syrup or lumps of red-brown sugar.

  • Basketry Dish
  • 2007
  • Tapobali village, Lembata
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Width 21 cm. (8.5 in)
  • Code # C.LE.LA.007

Sidu Baku

The people of Tapobali village scratch a living from the steep, rocky hillsides of southern Lembata.

Carrying corn to market, Tapobali, Lembata.
Carrying corn to market, Tapobali, Lembata.

They carry corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes home from the fields in sidu baku baskets like this one. Both men and women weavesidu baskets in their spare time. The peoples of eastern Indonesia exploit every part of the lontar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer). Full-grown lontarleaves are plaited into roofs and sleeping mats. Young, un-opened lontar fronds are curved into containers to carry water or collect palm sap, or are woven into hats, bags, and baskets.Sweet, milky lontar sap is an invaluable source of food for some traditional communities, especially during the long dry seasons. The sap can also be boiled down into nutritious syrup or lumps of red-brown sugar.

  • Harvest Basket
  • 2007
  • Tapobali village, Lembata
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 35 cm. (14 in)
  • Code # C.LE.LA.008

LEMBATA


EAST FLORES AND ADONARA

Our Blog

Mau Naek from Timor

Posted

Bebali Cloth Revival

Posted

Ei Ledo from Savu

Posted