Part of the mission statement for Threads of Life has been to improve the livelihood of women, and this has been accomplished beyond our expectations. The downside (if one dares to call it a downside) is that the financial success of the mother has decreased the weaving pool. Where does she put her extra earned resources? Into her children’s education, of course! Including that of her daughters. Many of Threads of Life weavers have paid for their daughters to go high school and even University. So, what is the likelihood that such a well-educated young woman will come back to her village and weave? Small, indeed.
As a result of this, weavers seem to be looking within clan bloodlines, to their nieces and cousins who are still living in the village, to pass down the art. “Rather than a lineal mother-daughter descendent, weavers are looking laterally to teach the art within their extended family,” suggests William. This comes from more than just a weaver’s desire to pass on her traditional knowledge of dye plants, motif meanings and textile structures that embody clan identity. “It is my responsibility, my commitment to my ancestors, that I carry this information from my grandmothers and give it to my children [sic],” says Antoneta Sae in Bokong, Timor, exhibiting a typically broad sense of responsibility for the next generation.
On this recent trip to Timor, I decided I would photograph the generations that are holding this promise. I also thought that by photographing the generations of women – weavers from only one community are shown here – it would reflect my appreciation of their shared commitment and in some small way make the weavers more aware of how proud they can be of this commitment. I feel that the pride of the weavers in their mothers and daughters is communicated in these images. They have every right to stand proud.
As I write this, we just received news that Teresia Tanono, who is from the same village as Rabeka and Antonata and a member of Nek Mese weaver group, passed away suddenly. We will miss her quiet but bright presence as a friend and wonderful weaver.