Threads Of Life

Timor Island

Sailors from the Asian mainland searching for fragrant sandalwood reached Timor, a dry rugged island at the south-eastern corner of the Nusa Tenggara islands, as early as 500 BCE. These traders carried with them decorated bronze drums made by the Dong Son culture of Vietnam, and introduced rice cultivation and the backstrap loom to the remote island.

The Portuguese and the Dutch came to Timor in the 16th century, seeking to dominate Timor’s sandalwood trade. These European powers divided Timor between them; the Dutch controlled the west from their capital at Kupang and the Portuguese held the east from their base in Dili. Today the island of Timor is again divided into two countries: Timor Leste to the far east and the west remaining part of Indonesia.

The sandalwood forests that once blanketed Timor vanished long ago, and most Timorese today survive through herding and farming. Much of Timor is too dry for wet rice cultivation, and farmers subsist on corn, cassava, sweet potatoes and a dry field variety of rice called padi ladang.

Clusters of conical traditional houses (kbubu) dot the countryside like haystacks, accessed by tiny doors just over a meter high. Thick thatch keeps out the heat of the day and holds in the warmth of the kitchen fire at night. In front of each house stands a lopo, an open pavilion which provides a cool place for welcoming guests and working. The architecture will vary as one travels along the island through the different ethnic regions.

Tai Muti​

Tai MutiThis man’s hip cloth called tai muti is made by weavers from Amarasi near Kupang in West Timor. The man’s hip cloth generally has a white centrefield which is characteristic of people who are ethnically Atoni who predominant ethnic group of western Timor. A man’s formal dress would start with wrapping the larger hip cloth, tai muti, followed by a po’uk atoni and then tied with a nafe as a belt.

Beti Naek​

Beti NaekThis textile, called a beti naek, is a two panel textile sewn in the centre and used by a man as a hip cloth. Traditionally textiles of Insana had no buna (supplementary warp wrap patterning) on the man’s hip cloth but only ikat patterning.

In the 1980’s the queen of Insana shifted the entire weaving production only produce the intricate buna technique throughout the entire textile and determined this to be their cultural identity and worn by all the women and men of Insana. Ironically this has changed the perception of the younger women who all weave the buna textiles: to make an ikat textile would be much more time consuming and expensive – when in fact it would take less than half the time of the buna work.


Beti Krao / Beti Krao Nuit / Beti Krao Metom

Beti Krao Metom Malaka BabotinBeti krao is a two panel man’s hip cloth worn as everyday dress and for some ceremonies. The centre part where the two sections are sewn together contain bands of small full  ikat patterning (inaf tuaf) with smaller strips of colour and partial ikat patterning on either side of these bands. The number of full ikat patterning bands (ina tuaf) is 4, 6 or 8 depend on the status and age of the man wearing the textile, the more bands the higher the age and status. There is a broad band of full ikat patterning (ianfa) which contains the primary motif of the cloth. If this patterning is on a blue-black field of colour it is called bete krao metom or if it is on a red field of colour it is called a bete krao nuit.

Po’uk Atoni

Pouk AtoniPo’uk Atoni is a man’s hip cloth worn by men from Amarasi in the southern part of West Timor. It  generally has a white centrefield which is characteristic of people who are ethnically Atoni who predominant ethnic group of western Timor.


Sem Beklobe

Sem BeklobeA sem beklobe is a three part man’s hip cloth with a white centre panel and two side panels sewn together. This textile is still important in the culture for use as a gift exchanges at marriage and funerals.

The Helong ethnic group of Kupang in West Timor were the original inhabitants of this area until the settlement of outsiders from Roti and Savu during the Dutch period. The remaining members resettled on the island off Kupang from Semau. In In 2008 Thersia Alle Ngaing was in her 60s and one of the last Helong weavers when Threads of Life met her. Thersia passed away in May 2016 but left her knowledge of the dye process and clan motifs with her daughter and granddaughter along with several other women in her clan.


Tais Bule’en

Tais BuleenTais bule’en is a man’s hip cloth for the Malaka cultural group.

Tais Klar Duka

Tais Klar DukaA tais klar duka is a man’s hip cloth for the Malaka ethnic group. It is worn for ceremonies and other celebrations such as weddings.

Tais Halai Laran

Tais Halai LaranTais halai laran is a man’s hip cloth for the Malaka ethnic group. It is worn for ceremonies or official functions such as festivals or to church.

Futu

FutuFutu is a single panel man’s ceremonial belt. It is worn to complete his traditional dress. It is decorated using two time-consuming techniques; naisa or slit tapestry weave along with buna, a warp-wrapping technique.

A man’s status can be identified by the numbers of belts that he wears. A single man will wear one futu, a married man will wear two futu and a wealthy man will wear three to four futu.


Sarek Barek

Sarek BarekSarek barek is a man’s ceremonial betelnut bag, decorated with beads and worn to complete his traditional dress. It is carried over the shoulder with one hand holding the short strap. A man would carry his betelnut and tobacco in this bag. The betelnut quid includes the leaf of the piper betel pepper plant, a slice of the nut of the betelnut palm (Areca catechu), and powdered lime. The quids contents are served like coffee to guests and carried as a gift when visiting.

Tais

TaisTais is a woman’s tubular sarong made using natural dyed cotton threads. There are three different techniques used to make a tais; futus (ikat), sotis/lotis (floating warp patterning), and buna (supplementary warp wrap patterning).

Some examples of tais include tais hae ma’buna which is a woman’s ceremonial sarong from the region of Biboki.


Tai Ro’e / Tais Bife

Tai Ro’e / Tais BifeWomen’s sarongs are referred to as tai bife of which there are several different types. Tai ro’e is a three-part woman’s tubular sarong made by the weavers from Amarasi near Kupang in West Timor. The tai ro’e has three or four sections with a centrefield and is worn for ceremonies.

The women of Amarasi will wear the tai ro’e pulled up over the breasts and fold the upper part of the textile inward so that the textile appears like a full dress. The two-part woman’s sarong called tai tika is worn at the hips like a skirt for everyday use.


Tais Marobos

Tais Morobos Nuit RaroteTais marobos is a three-part tubular sarong worn by older women of Babotin for traditional ceremonies. The centerfield (tuaf) has a series of coloured stripes with small strips of simple ikat patterning in between. This is bordered by the cloth’s primary broad band of full ikat patterning (ianfa) with more narrow bands of full ikat patterning (saso’ef) as well as small strips of partial ikat patterning (tiup keta) between the bands of full ikat. The end sections (rukif) sewn on at the head and foot of the textile contain whole fields of solid colour either blue-black (metom) or red (nuit). The very end of the textile is finished with four multi-coloured stripes of colour and a small solid blue-black band.

Within the Malaka culture the red (nuit) textile is more highly valued than the black (meton). Only older women may make the more complicated and potent textiles; marobos and keut bati as well as the use of rarote patterning.


Po’uk Ana

Pouk AnaPo’uk ana is a narrow shoulder cloth worn by unmarried women and is made by weavers from Amarasi in West Timor. The po’uk ana is worn for ceremonies or special occasions.

Tais Maruka Nuit

Tais Maruka NuitA tais maruka nuit textile would be worn by a woman for dance performances (likurai) as well as for traditional ceremonies. The distinctive alternating coloured stripes centrefield (tuana) of the maruka textile is further embellished by using a rarote or warp wrap technique on the end sections rather than using sotis (supplementary) or ikat patterning. The bottom of these end sections are a solid field of colour, either blue-black (metom) or red (nuit).

Within the Malaka culture the red (nuit) textile is more highly valued than the black (metom). Only older women may make the more complicated and potent textiles; marobos and keut bati as well as the use of rarote patterning. These textiles are known for the use of using bright white threads to highlight the colour stripes of their cloths. Threads are bleached white by using the tuber of the tiro (Taccaceae sp).


Tais Keut Bati Nuit / Tais Keut Metom

Tais Keut Bati NuitIn the tais keut bati textile the centrefield contains a solid field of the cloths primary ikat patterning (ianfa). If this patterning is on a red field of colour it is called a keut bati nuit, and if the patterning is on a blue-black field of colour it is called keut bati metom. This field of ikat patterning is bordered by stripes of colour with strips of partial ikat patterning (tiup keta) between and another small band of full ikat pattern (saso’ef) at the edge of the centrefield. The end sections (rukif) sewn on at the head and foot of the textile contain whole fields of solid colour either blue-black (metom) or red (nuit) with rarote or supplementary warp wrap technique patterning throughout this colour field. The very end of the textile is finished with four multi-coloured stripes of colour and a small band of rarote.

Only older, initiated women may make the more complicated and potent keut bati textiles. She must ask permission before tying the motif of the cloth and again later must return to the traditional house to give thanks for finishing the cloth without mishap.


Sem Behata

Sem BehataA sem behata is a two-part woman’s tube skirt, still important in the culture for use as gift exchanges at marriages and funerals for the Helong ethnic group of Kupang, in West Timor.

Beit Ana

Beit AnaBeit ana is the local name for a single panel woman’s shoulder cloth worn as traditional dress for ceremonies and special occasions. This textile is decorated using the time-consuming buna (warp-wrapping technique), ikat or naisa (slit tapestry). Unlike embroidery, buna is performed during the weaving process, resulting in a pattern that is the same on both sides.

Limut

LimutA limut is a single panel shoulder scarf worn by women of the Helong ethnic group in West Timor as part of traditional dress.

Pilu Saluf​

Pilu SalufPilu Saluf is the local name for a fifteen -part man’s textile costume that was worn by meo warriors in the past. These parts worn; on both the arms and legs, at the front and back of the head, as well as the front and back of the waist.

Today pilu saluf is still worn for ceremonies and stored along with other heirlooms in the traditional house. This is the first time in many years that the Mollo weavers in this area have reproduced a pilu saluf using all natural dyed threads (from the Bebali Foundation) using the complex naisa or slit tapestry technique.

Na`i

 

Priok LargeThe Timorese people use these large, open earthenware pots for cooking, washing, and for fermenting indigo leaves to make rich blue dyes for textiles. Ora It Laborah cooperative, from Benlutu village, West Timor, makes these na`i pots. The cooperative uses all traditional methods: the pots are pit-fired over dried cow dung and hand-painted with natural mineral pigments. Smoke and dye stains give each pot a unique character.
Dynamic local traditions in pottery, weaving, and basketry thrive in every corner of West Timor. Each part of the island features unique designs, motifs, and colors. Natural plant and mineral dyes are still used in many traditional art forms.

  • Dye Pot
  • 2004
  • Made by Dorkas Talan
  • Benlutu village, West Timor
  • Ceramic
  • Height 16 cm. (6 in)
  • Code # C.PO.BN.006

Na`i

 

Small Pot LargeOra It Laborah cooperative, from Benlutu village, West Timor, makes these na`i pots. The cooperative uses all traditional methods: the pots are pit-fired over dried cow dung and hand-painted with natural mineral pigments. The Timorese people use large, openna`i for cooking, washing, and for fermenting indigo leaves to make the rich blue dyes for textiles. Small, lidded pots like this one are used as coin banks, an idea which arrived along with Dutch currency during the colonial period.
Dynamic local traditions in pottery, weaving, and basketry thrive in every corner of West Timor. Each part of the island features unique designs, motifs, and colors. Natural plant and mineral dyes are still used in many traditional art forms.

  • Coin Bank
  • 2007
  • Benlutu village, West Timor
  • Ceramic
  • Height 20 cm. (8 in)
  • Code # C.PO.BN.011

Kal Ao

 

A kal ao is a container for lime powder, made from bamboo and polished with beeswax to bring out the design. Hosts and guests share betel nut quid–a pinch of powdered lime, pepper and leaves from the sireh plant (Piper betle), and a slice of the nut of thepinang palm (Areca catechu)–as a sign of hospitality and good will.
Each kal ao is carved with a unique combination of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geometric patterns, which often echo local traditional designs. Men carry their kal ao, kalat, or other lime container with them in a traditional cloth bag called an aluk. A man`s aluk will also hold pinang nuts and other betel chewing ingredients, and a feku, a cow whistle. Each man carefully trains his cows to respond only to the particular sound of his feku.

  • Lime Container
  • 2007
  • Oinlasi village, West Timor
  • Bamboo
  • Height 16 cm. (6.5 in)
  • Code # C.TM.AM.001

Beo Unus

 

The Timorese store traditional medicines in these carved wooden jars, which hang from the rafters or woven roofs of traditional houses across the island. Beo unus means “bottle for chili peppers,“ a common ingredient in Timorese medicine. Other remedies contain tuak, fermented palm sap, and local medicinal herbs. In West Timor, wooden implements like this are usually carved from hau matani (Pterocarpus indica), a hard, red, insect resistant wood. The “hook and lozenge“ motifs carved on this beo unus are often found on local textiles.

  • Medicine bottle
  • 2007
  • Kuafeu village, West Timor
  • Wood
  • Height 18 cm. (7 in)
  • Code # C.TM.OL.007

Kalat Sunaf

 

A kalat is a container for lime powder, made from bone, horn, or wood, and topped with a carved wooden stopper. Hosts and guests share betel nut quid–a pinch of powdered lime, pepper and leaves from the sireh plant (Piper betle), and a slice of the nut of thepinang palm (Areca catechu)–as a sign of hospitality and good will.
Each kalat is carved with a unique combination of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geometric patterns, which often echo local traditional designs. Men carry their kalat with them in a traditional cloth bag called analuk. A man`s aluk will also carrypinang nuts and other betel chewing ingredients, and a feku, a cow whistle. Each man carefully trains his cows to respond only to the particular sound of his feku.

  • Lime Container
  • 2007
  • Kuafeu village, West Timor
  • Buffalo horn, wood
  • Height 23 cm. (9 in)
  • Code # C.TM.OL.011

Kalat Nuif

 

Kalat MuifKalat Nuif FenunA kalat is a container for lime powder, made from bone, horn, or wood, and topped with a carved wooden stopper. Hosts and guests share betel nut quid–a pinch of powdered lime, pepper and leaves from the sireh plant (Piper betle), and a slice of the nut of thepinang palm (Areca catechu)–as a sign of hospitality and good will.
Each kalat is carved with a unique combination of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geometric patterns, which often echo local traditional designs. Men carry their kalat with them in a traditional cloth bag called analuk. A man`s aluk will also carrypinang nuts and other betel chewing ingredients, and a feku, a cow whistle. Each man carefully trains his cows to respond only to the particular sound of his feku.

  • Lime Container
  • 2007
  • Boti, West Timor
  • Cow bone
  • Height 18.5 cm. (7 in)
  • Code: C.TM.TM.011

Kul Mau

 

In Boti and other remote Timorese villages, horses carry these kul mausaddlebags to market bursting with corn, eggs, and other produce. This kul mau is made from a fiber calledgabang, which the locals extract from the leaves of the gabang palm tree(Corypha utan), roll into twine, and weave on a loom.
About seventy families live in the isolated traditional community of Boti, in the Amanuban highlands of West Timor. Until two years ago, Boti`s three hundred residents walked their horses along a dry riverbed for five hours to reach the local market. Each rainy season, the swelling of the river made this journey impossible. Today, a new mountain road avoids the river valley. The new road itself becomes impassable in the rainy months, but each dry season cars, trucks, and motorbikes connect Boti to the outside world.

  • Saddlebag
  • 2007
  • Boti village, West Timor
  • Gabang palm leaf
  • 88 x 33 cm. (5 x 13 in)
  • Code: C.TM.TM.037

Kalai

 

The Timorese roll gabang fibers against their upper legs with the palms of their hands to make the twine in these bags. Men spin nearly all gabangtwine, and kalai weaving is a men`s activity. These are everyday, utilitarian bags, and you might easily spot a man returning home from the markets of West Timor with his kalai full of corn or eggs.Gabang fiber comes from the leaves of the tall, fire resistant Corypha utanpalm. The gigantic fan-shaped leaves of the Corypha can grow up to three meters in diameter. Full-grown fronds are cut into broad strips and woven into stiff mats for floors or walls. The finer, more flexible gabang fiber is extracted from younger leaves, which are harvested when they reach about a meter in length. The Timorese weave gabang into rope, hats, baskets, trays, and sails.

  • Net Bag
  • 2007
  • Boti village, West Timor
  • Gabang palm fiber
  • Length 45 cm. (18 in)
  • Code # C.TM.TM.043

Sarek Barek

 

This ceremonial betel nut bag, decorated with antique beads and bells, completes men`s traditional dress. A Timorese man would drop his tobacco,feku cow whistle, and betel quid ingredients into his sarek barek, and drape it over his shoulder with one hand through the short straps. The betel quid includes a leaf and a piece of pepper from the sireh plant (Piper betle), a slice of the nut of the pinangpalm (Areca catechu), and powdered coral or limestone.Hosts serve betel to guests like coffee, and visitors bring it as a gift to their hosts. When chewed together, the leaf, nut and lime produce a mild intoxication-and a mass of red saliva. Chewing betel also suppresses the appetite, a useful side-effect in areas where food and water are not plentiful.

  • Cloth Shoulder Bag
  • 2006
  • Dyed and woven by Rosalia Bubu
  • Loo Neke village, West Timor
  • Warp-faced plain weave, supplementary wefts
  • Cotton, natural dyes, beads and bells
  • 61 x 26 cm. (24 x 10 in)
  • Code # J.TA.PT.008

Ok Tute

 

Many Timorese regularly chew betel nut quid, a combination of local plants and powdered lime that produces a mild intoxication–and a mass of red saliva. These lontar leaf ok tutecylinders were made to hold sirehleaves (Piper betle), one ingredient in the betel quid. Timorese men tie ok tute to their belts, and carry the other betel quid ingredients in a shoulder bag–peppery sireh flower spikes, nuts from the pinang palm(Areca catechu), and lime powder. Some craftspeople decorate ok tute with beads, and others with sotis, a fabric woven with colorful supplementary warps.
The peoples of eastern Indonesia use every part of the tall, slender lontar palm(Borassus flabellifer). Sweet lontar sap is a primary food source in Savu and Roti, especially during the long dry season. Young, un-opened lontar leaves are cut into fine strips and woven into baskets, hats or bags. Older leaves are plaited into large mats for roofing or floor coverings.

  • Sireh Leaf Baskets
  • 2005
  • Woven by Aplonia Talan
  • Benlutu village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf, cotton, beads
  • Height 10.5 cm. (4 in)
  • Code # C.BS.BN.002

Oko Mama

 

Women in West Timor like to buy a plain oko mama and decorate it themselves. They cover the unadornedlontar leaf baskets with beads or colorful fabric woven with sotissupplementary warps, or buna warp wrappings. Traditionally, oko mama hold the ingredients of the betel quid: nuts from the pinang palm (Areca catechu), leaves and peppery flower spikes from the malesireh plant (Piper betle), and powdered lime. When chewed together, they produce a mild intoxication–and a mass of red saliva.
The peoples of eastern Indonesia use every part of the tall, slender lontar palm(Borassus flabellifer). Sweet lontar sap is a primary food source in Savu and Roti, especially during the long dry season. The young un-opened leaves are cut into fine strips and woven into baskets, hats or bags. Older leaves are plaited into large sections and used for roofs and sleeping mats.

  • Betel Nut Basket
  • 2005
  • Woven by Aplonia Talan
  • Benlutu village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf, cotton
  • Height 14 cm. (5.5 in)
  • Code # C.BS.BN.003

Kabi

 

KabiKabi Little kabi baskets hold the ingredients of the betel quid: nut from thepinang palm (Areca catechu), leaves and peppery flower spikes from the male sireh plant (Piper betle), and powdered lime. When chewed together, the combination produces a mild intoxication–and a mass of red saliva. Chewing betel also suppresses the appetite, a useful side-effect in areas where food and water are not plentiful.
The peoples of eastern Indonesia use every part of the tall, slender lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer). Sweet lontarsap is a valuable food source for traditional communities, especially during the long dry season. The young un-opened leaves are cut into fine strips and woven into baskets, hats or bags. Older leaves are plaited into large sections and used for roofs and sleeping mats.

  • Betel Nut Basket
  • 2007
  • Made by Getrudis Seko
  • Loo Neke village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Height 8 cm. (3 in)
  • Code # C.BS.PT.002

Koro Mama

 

Tieb Likr Membuat BasketMany Timorese regularly chew betel nut quid, a combination of local plants and powdered lime that produces a mild intoxication–and a mass of red saliva. This lontar leaf koro mamabasket was made to hold the ingredients of the betel quid: leaves and peppery flower spikes from the male sireh plant (Piper betle), nuts from the pinangpalm (Areca catechu), and lime powder, called kapor. Chewing betel also decreases the appetite, a useful habit in areas where food and water are not plentiful.
The peoples of eastern Indonesia use every part of the tall, slender lontar palm(Borassus flabellifer). Sweet lontar sap is a primary food source in Savu and Roti, especially during the long dry season. Young, un-opened lontar leaves are cut into fine strips and woven into baskets, hats or bags. Older leaves are plaited into large mats for roofing or floor coverings.

  • Betel Basket
  • 2007
  • Baun village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Width 12.5 cm. (5 in)
  • Code # C.TM.AR.018

Oko Taka

 

Oko TakaTibo Ptkr Oko Tuke This exceptionally ornate oko takabasket would contain nuts from thepinang palm (Areca catechu) and leaves and peppery flower spikes from the male sireh plant (Piper betle). A basket with this level of ornamentation would be reserved for the king of Boti, or for visiting royalty from nearby villages. The people of West Timor wrap a sliver of pinang and a piece ofsireh pepper in a sireh leaf, and chew them with a pinch of powdered limestone to produce a mild, pleasant intoxication–and a mass of red saliva. Any formal call in West Timor involves the exchange of these ingredients; guests offer them to an honored host, and hosts to honor a guest.
Until recently, Boti`s 300 residents walked along a parched riverbed for five hours to reach the local market. Each rainy season, the swelling of the river made this journey impossible. A new mountain road, itself impassable in the rainy months, now connects Boti to the outside world throughout the dry season.

  • Royal Betel Presentation Basket
  • 2006
  • Boti village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf, cotton thread
  • Height 30 cm. (12 in)
  • Code # C.TM.TM.002

Oko Sripi

 

These betel baskets are woven from the fronds of the lontar palm (Borassus flabellifer). The peoples of eastern Indonesia exploit every part of thelontar. 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 a nutritious syrup or lumps of red-brown sugar.
Most of West Timor receives too little rain to support flooded rice fields, and many Timorese survive on corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, and a dry-field variety of rice called padi ladang. In some areas, hard times force the locals to subsist almost entirely on lontar sap.

  • Betel Nut Basket
  • 2007
  • Baun village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf
  • Length 9 cm. (3.5 in)
  • Code # C.TM.TM.016

Oko Mama Makolo

 

Oko mama baskets hold the ingredients for the betel quid: nuts from the pinang palm (Areca catechu),leaves and peppery flower spikes from the male sireh plant (Piper betle), and powdered lime from ground limestone or burnt seashells. The Timorese take a bite of each and chew them together to produce a mild, pleasant intoxication–and a mass of red saliva. Any formal visit involves the exchange of betel quids; guests offer them to an honored host, and hosts to honor a guest. A basket with such fine sotis and woven birds–the symbol of the Boti royal clan–would be saved for a special visitor, perhaps even the village leader.
Until recently, Boti`s 300 residents walked along a parched riverbed for five hours to reach the local market. Each rainy season, the swelling of the river made this journey impossible. A new mountain road, itself impassable in the rainy months, now connects Boti to the outside world throughout the dry season.

  • Ceremonial Betel Nut Basket
  • 2006
  • Boti village, West Timor
  • Lontar palm leaf, cotton thread
  • Height 17 cm. (7 in)
  • Code # C.TM.TM.021

AMANATUN

 

AMANUBAN

 

AMARASI AND HELONG

 

 

INSANA, MIOMAFO AND MOLLO

 

 

MALAKA

 

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