Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Last Post or List of Things I Didn't Know.......

The Last Post or List of Things I Didn’t Know Before Coming on the Threads of Life Tour to Bali & West Timor:

1. The difference between ikat, double ikat, supplementary weft, or discontinued weft.
2. That there are at least 100 uses for the coconut.
3. Bali has squirrels.
4. Congregational Ministers can be female.
5. That in the U.S you can buy your own railroad.
6. During the safety video on Garuda flights, stewards don’t demonstrate safety equipment instead they hand out lollies!
7. The Garuda in-flight magazine includes a list of invocations for a safe journey in 5 religions: Islamic, Buddhist, Catholic, Presbyterian & Confucian (I invoked them all as we had a very windy landing into Kupung.)
8. In West Timor the night time use of headlights by motorcycles (and some cars) is neither compulsory or customary
9. How deeply traditional Bali life still is.
10. That my travel insurance wouldn’t cover the loss of my front tooth.
11. How much I would love this tour!

Thank you to Eleri for organising me to go (and being such a great travel companion). My deep gratitude to Choy, Jean & William. Choy runs the most amazing tours
If going to Bali I encourage you to visit Threads of Life Visit the shop and if you get the chance to hear Jean or William speak grab it!
Thank you to everyone on the tour!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last post from me

I'm home now and had the best trip ever. If you've enjoyed reading about weaving in Indonesia, please go and look at the Threads of Life website where they have better pictures and more reliable information than we remembered. Sign up for the newsletter, it's how we found out about the tour and is a good read.

Threads of Life

Pictures taken: 572
Blog posts: 28 - we achieved an average of 2 per day and still didn't manage to write about everything. I never did that blog on W Timor houses :( Some blogs never got their pictures attached and probably never will now.
Pictures of offal, fish and spices in piles taken by Fiona: way more than you ever saw.

Meals with tofu/tempeh in them: about 2 per day for me (this is a good result in case you are wondering).
Excellent sweets involving sticky rice: too many for Fiona, not possible for me to reach my limit. Believe me, I tried.
Days I achieved Bali pancakes for breakfast: 8
Palm sugar brought home and successfully negotiated through AQIS - 1kg each
Markets visited by Fiona:5

People we travelled with: 14-20 depending on where we were
People we made laugh, particularly in West Timor: hundreds. I'm going there again, so many people thought we were hilarious.
Boring days: none

Books I read: 3
Books I read from Fiona's list: 1 (oops)

I have a nice problem - what to do with all these textiles I have brought home. Fortunately all well separated from the palm sugar.

Thanks to everyone on the trip, my car buddies in West Timor in particular, and to Jean, William and everyone at Threads of Life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Seraya - last weaving stop on the tour

Seraya is a coastal town in East Bali but up high. We take the scenic route and are soon winding through villages, past the Water Gardens and up and down. It's much dryer and we spot what looks like prickly pear. The leader of the Karya Seni Warna Alam weaver's coop is I Wayan Karya and he's an entertaining and entrepreneurial man. They weave from their own, homegrown cotton.

Wayan in the garden showing us a cotton boll he had just picked.

Then it has to be spun. In other places we had seen all sorts of arrangements for spinning - not all places use a wheel, some do the entire process by hand and must spin the spindle with one hand. At Seraya they use a home-made wheel, but we have also seen a lot of old bicycle wheels starting a new turn of duty.

Spinning the cotton.

And a here's a video of how to spin cotton (for all those people with leftover bicycle wheels at home who are just wondering what to do with them). NB - when I published this I realised you will have to turn you head 90 degrees to watch it. I'm sure you can manage because I can't rotate the vid! Either that or consider spinning lying down.

I found out how to make black dye - first you dye the cotton red by repeatedly dyeing, drying and re-dying until it is a deep red. Then you hot dye it in something with a high tannin content, and then dip it in water with a few rusty nails in it. This co-op was also doing some great indigo dyeing using an indigo that looks much more like the Australian one than others we saw elsewhere.

Indigo pots in various stages of readiness.

Yarns dyed with natural dyes and hung up for drying

This co-op has traditionally made poleng, the black and white checked cloth you see all over Bali, adorning statues and worn by some men. They revived their history and are now making it in the traditional way and are now selling to locals as well as to the tourist market. It's nice to see the Balinese looking for a quality woven product for use in every day life.

Fiona, Julia and Eleri with our purchases out the front of the weavers at Seraya.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tenganan - home of double ikat

Yesterday we visited the pinnacle of difficult weaving, Tenganan. It's a village in East Bali that is Bali Aga or old Balinese. It has an incredibly complex social organisation. And a population of just 300 or so. All marriage has to occur within this group.

Patterning seems to be very important with the community and there are lots of repeated patterns in the weaving as well as the houses. It's one of only three communities in the world that practice double ikat. The others are in Japan and India.

Textiles look unlike anything else we have seen. Double ikat means that both the warp and the weft carry a dyed pattern. The pattern is put on to the thread through the usual tying and dyeing methods we have seen elsewhere but on both threads.

Preparing the weft threads before dyeing.

Weaver concentrating on lining all the threads up both ways.

I can only imagine how hard it is to register the pattern so they BOTH line up. Not surprisingly, this is one of the indicators of quality. Unlike other weaving, the weaver doesn't tamp down hard on the weft threads. Tightness here is not a virtue because in order to get the pattern to work properly, the weft and warp threads must for an even, square grid. Hence, it's a fairly open weave. This is one of the reasons I didn't get one because it seemed fragile. I don't think it is, but it had that appearance.

Also, I thought it was over-priced. As a rare commodity and with a well established tourist market, there appeared to be more emphasis on quantity rather than quality. (Says me, who couldn't weave one to save my life.)

The best example we say and a very highly priced one. The white borders are the selvedges that keep the magic in. These textiles all have traditional ceremonial uses.

Farming Lontar palms or number 5 on the List of Jobs I Could Never Do.

Lontar palm (Burassus Sundaicus) is tall like a coconut tree but with the leaves of a fan palm and it can be found along the coastal regions of West Timor and other neighbouring islands. It can be used in so many ways: as a food, fronds are woven into baskets for offerings or made into the most exquisite harp like musical instruments; it’s a building material that is adaptable and very strong.
As a food palm sugar is said to be a complete ayurvedic food and each traditional home will have a large pot of it. Adding peanuts as protein provides most nutritional needs. The liquid can be also be fermented and is much in demand at wedding celebrations.

(Image of Lontar Palm Harp taken at the West Timor Museum's exhibition on Lontar Palm)

On Friday we travelled to Kuanheun in West Timor to see palm sugar being tapped. The countryside is very dry; clusters of Lontar palm grow in a large brown paddock and are farmed by various families. The family we meet own 60 trees, three have been tapped this morning and our famer has held off on the fourth so we can watch.
He is well into his fifties, thin, wiry and fast as anything as he climbs expertly up the 35 feet tall palm swaying madly in a very strong wind. The long palm flowers are sliced through and a basket made of Lontar fronds hangs beneath to catch the dripping liquid, at least two bags where hanging from the tree.

The liquid is hauled down in another basket hanging from his back and not a drop is spilled. A system of filtration ensures a pure and delicious liquid which can then be fermented for wine or boiled for palm syrup and then dried into a crystallised sugar.

(Examples of Lontar palm baskets used to carry and filter the palm liquid)

( Wenton one of our guides explains that his father is also a farmer (in Bali) and that he too can do this and that the Lontar climbers can also jump from tree to tree to save having to come back down and up! Wenton has a degree in law from Denpassar University. I don’t think many Australian lawyers would also have this tree climbing and tree jumping skill!)

Our farmer invites us back to his home to sample the wine. This is a spontaneous event but before we know chairs are being carried from all the homes to ensure we have enough seats. I’m always amazed at how quickly word travels that we are visiting, hospitality is always shown, and kids arrive from nowhere and follow us.

Some time back the villagers decided that no longer would a local man need to be able to climb and tap the Lontar before he married. Education was now the most important thing. It means that few people under the age of 40 do this for a living.
Also more money can be made from rice farming which is done in the same fields of the Lontar. The flooding of the land for rice production means that no new Lontar palms can grow.

I feel that I have seen a remarkable way of life in its demise.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

List of Foods I have eaten.

List of Balinese & West Timorese food I have eaten (and enjoyed)

1. Papaya flower salad which is slightly bitter and anti-malarial
2. Liquid tapped fresh from the Lontar palm
3. Mung bean and potato soup made by Looneke women
4. Fresh tomato and sacred basil sambal
5. West Timorese drink of avocado, condensed milk and chocolate
6. Glutinous rice coloured green with pandanus leaf & eaten like a warm
7. Roast suckling pig in Ubud
8. Tempeh with fiery sambals
9. Palm sugar in all it’s forms.
10. Surprisingly, a sizzling steak at the Rotterdam Steakhouse in Kupung

This is a photo of a dessert Eleri had at Nelayan Restaurant Kupang.
It consisted of shaved ice and then a mass of strangely coloured
agar agar pieces plus a whole lot of unidentifable gelatinous sugary matter. Like a trifle except it tasted like gummy bears and bubblegum from my childhood. Truly dreadful which is why it doesn't appear on my list, but Eleri loved it. I think I saw her adding extra sugar to it as well.

Some photos from Looneke

Belatedly here are some photos from Looneke that relate to Fiona's post on Morinda dye.

Walking in to Looneke. We left the cars at the top of the hill and walked in the last kilometre or so that we could have a proper welcome.

The official welcome was sung, the clan leader is the man in the front in blue. This is the welcome being sung.

The weavers' cooperative members did their own welcome dance for us.

A demonstration of indigo dyeing.

Fiona having a go at one of the easier tasks on offer - pounding the morinda roots in preparation for making the dye.

The members of the weavers' cooperative.

Fiona with the weaver of her new textile.

Eleri with the weaver of her new textile.