Day 3 begins with a visit to the Threads of Life’s dyeing workshop and tour of the dye gardens. Pung works with many of the communities throughout the islands gathering the knowledge around the very different traditions of dyeing from a huge range of plant species. Some of the dyes have taboos about sharing . In Sumba men can’t even watch the women doing the dyeing.
Cotton thread firstly needs a protein or oil to cover it allowing the dye to be absorbed. The protein needed for the oiling can come from seeds, fermented coconut, fish even snake and crocodile. It then needs tannin, the colouring agent and some form of naturally occurring aluminium. The complexity of the process is really extraordinary. Each step requiring the balancing of elements like chlorophyll, carbohydrate, lime all bound up with seasons, traditions and taboos. Pung tooks us through the process of making indigo before our very eyes. It was like a form of alchemy.
Pung not only works with the communities, he is a gardener, ethnobotanist and he has just had he is field work findings verified by Kew Gardens. A tour of the garden in a light rain shower was enlightening.
We also had a batik lesson. Eleri has proved so adept at the craft lessons I believe she is about to give up working with Mission Australia for the life of a craftswoman. She is also a woman of goals and so far her stated aim is to consume her own body weight in sugar. Very achievable given the number of options: brown sugar,white sugar, palm sugar, sugary lemon drinks with sugar syrup, and because she is such a wee thing she’s only got a couple more kilos to go.
Our day concluded with a gamelan lesson and then an evening performance of dance, gamelan and men’s chanting. ( I still not a complete convert to gamelan.)