Tapobali was officially recognized as a village by the Indonesian government in March 2008. This village is actually comprised of five different clan settlements who have lived in this area for centuries. Most of the population are seasonal farmers and fishermen. The women weave when they are not in the fields tending their gardens as traditional textiles are still being made as part of the ritual gift exchange at the time of marriage.
There are two types of textiles that are used at this ritual exchange; the Kreot Nai Telon (made of three widths of textile sewn together) and the Kreot Nai Juan (made of two widths).
There is a huge difference between the quality of textiles being made today and in the past. The differences are apparent in the color and the ikat motifs. The old textiles were woven tightly with clear ikat motifs. The textiles being made today have minimal ikat patterns and the color has moved from a rich chocolate red to an orange-yellow. Threads of Life hopes to help the community revive the traditional weaving art form.
The friendliness of the people of Tapobali makes me want to spend more time with them. I usually stay at least a night and talk into the late hours. I am slowly beginning to understand more about their culture and traditions. The weaving group formed in April 2008 after the first visit from Threads of Life. They call themselves Ina Tula Tani which means “women gathering who enjoy weaving.” Together they have started to ask the older women in the community about dye recipes of the past as well as the meaning of theikat motifs.
The weaving group’s efforts have not been in vain as after a year they produced some beautiful shoulder cloths with good color and tight ikat patterns. The older women are eager to train the younger women who want to learn the art.
Along with weaving, the group has also begun to make basketry at the request of Threads of Life. These baskets are used by the community such on a daily basis for many different purposes including platters for food, storage containers for corn, and betel nut baskets for men and women. The income from the sale of these baskets is a big help to the community. Like many remote communities along these rugged coasts, they rely mostly on barter.
For the people of Tapobali their way of life cannot be separated from the ways of their ancestors. Proof of this strong connection is most apparent in the way that every clan within Tapobali still maintains a traditional house. Within the traditional house ceremonies are performed to ask for rain and fertility for their crops, health for their families, and prosperity. I visited one of the traditional houses belonging to the Lebuan clan and saw many baskets woven from lontar palm that are stored for agricultural ceremonies.
Seeing the enthusiasm of the weaving group makes me also excited and eager to support their efforts. I have high hopes that the weavers of Tapobali will maintain this enthusiasm and continue to grow and improve the quality of their textiles while remaining firmly rooted in their culture. By improving the quality of their textiles, their own income will also improve as wil the well-being of their family and community.