Slide 1

Our fourth visit to the traditional compound of Nggela

It takes many visits before a community perceives us as being seriously committed to working with them. While the intensity of Nggela’s sacred feeling remains strong for me, this visit felt more comfortable, as though there was a greater sense of familiarity between us and the villagers. We greeted each other with friendly words and smiles. People seemed to recognize us, now, on our fourth visit.

 

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Slide 2

Children in Nggela with Lolet

It was mid-morning when we arrived and the compound was quiet with only children playing in front of the houses, running together and laughing. The women were sitting together behind the line of traditional houses doing routine daily chores. When Petronela Pape saw us, she walked over to greets us and led us to her house.

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Slide 3

Petronela Pape with a traditional Lawobutu textile

We climed up onto the porch of Petronela’s traditional house and sat and talked about small things before we began to ask about textiles. We looked through textiles that she placed in front of us. We talked about the name of each textile and its motifs. We were surprised that none of the textiles appeared to be new! They were newly woven, only they were made with old threads that had been saved a long time.

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Slide 4

Tied and dyed threads saved over the years but not yet woven into the textile

Then Petronela explained: there was a visitor from Switzerland that came to Nggela between the 1984 and 1993. This woman was eager to learn about Nggela textiles and wanted to support the continuation of weaving using natural dyes. She encouraged the weavers to put together a weaving group of thirteen people to focus on this work. Petronela was one of the women. Today the group is no longer active as the women are old and do not want to do the hard work that it takes to make the natural dye colors.

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Lawobutu, like this piece commissioned in 2009 by Threads of Life, had not been made for 35 years

Lawobutu, like this piece commissioned in 2009 by Threads of Life, had not been made for 35 years

We were amazed and realized that these women are still saving threads that they dyed way back then. Listening to Petronela’s story we were suddenly aware that the lowobutu beaded textile that Threads of Life had comissioned last year was not the only kind of textile in danger of becoming extinct in Nggela. We urged Petronela to talk to some of the other women of the old weavers’ group and encourage them to teach the younger women the way of using natural dyes for making Nggela traditional textiles.

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This Lawo Kapa woman’s ceremonial cloth takes many years to make

This Lawo Kapa woman’s ceremonial cloth takes many years to make

We learned that the natural dye processes in Nggela are even more time consuming than in other communities in Flores. They use Morinda for red and indigo for blue, just like other communities, but Nggela weavers then store these threads and re-dye them again and again over many years. Petronela told us that they do not want to change this tradtion.

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This luka semba textile is worn by a man as a hip cloth or shoulder cloth

This luka semba textile is worn by a man as a hip cloth or shoulder cloth

We now have three textiles made by three weavers that were newly woven from these old threads. We will keep returning to Nggela to encourage the weavers and buy the textiles they make. But it will require their commitment and enthusiasm as well, if the textile traditions of Nggela are to thrive.

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