Our first trip to the field this year was to Timor. We visited a dozen communities on the trip, but at both the first and last we found that women we had long worked with had died. In the very remote community of Boti, we were sad to hear that Sau Sae died in childbirth in January 2015. The child survived. All of Sau’s sisters and brothers were staying with the new baby up in the rooms where we usually sleep when visiting. “I have lost my sister,” said Liu in tears. “We call her little boy Sau so we never forget her.” We were all sad to hear of Sau’s passing as we had known her for more than fifteen years.
Sau Sae was part of the royal clan of Boti, where she lived with her uncle, the current king. Sau was not yet married so it is still not determined who will bring up the baby. For now the child is being raised by a relative of the the family in the upper area of the family compound. He is very loved from what we could see with all the family cuddling and kissing him.
Our last stop of the field trip was Helong, where we again saddened by news of a death. Theresia Ale Ngaing, the elderly weaver who had led the revival of her community’s textile tradition, had died. In 2006, when we found Theresia, she was the last in her ethnic group still using natural dyes. She was sick and heartbroken that her tradition was dieing, but found a new lease on life when Threads of Life recognized her stewardship of her art and gave her an opportunity to make income from her work. Her example inspired others and now her daughter, granddaughter and three members of the extended family carry the tradition.
Theresia’s son Sam told us how she died. “She had been ill and in hospital. Then three days before she died she asked to be taken home. She gave me the key to her cupboard and told me that the money from her weaving sales was hidden there. She asked me to divide the cash out among her grandchildren. It came to more than 13 million rupiah [US$1,000]. The next day she laid down and closed her eyes as the sun set and the full moon rose – and passed away.”
Theresia was still tying threads for her next textile, which we were to pick up in March, right up to when she was last taken to hospital. How remarkable that she passed on the art of making these beautiful Helong textile before she left this world.