We meet the Raja of Amarasi, Robert Koroh, in his private home in Baun, not far from Kupang. He is the 20th Raja but as he says only 19 of them were Kings and had a kingdom. He now just has a ceremonial role. In fact, we meet him in his home because if we met in the palace, they would have had to organise a large ceremony and nobody wanted that.
He looks alot like Xanana Gusmao and has a charismatic and clearly educated outlook on the world, even through interpretation. We hear about the history of Amarasi and Indonesia.
West Timor was divided into kingdoms, originally strongly supported by the Dutch in a classic colonial approach. However, when the proposal to create an independent Indonesia was put to the vote just after World War II, West Timor joined up and the kingdoms were ended. The kingdoms, however, weren’t that interested in joining up, they just wanted to be independent kingdoms but that didn’t appear to be a realistic option.
The village of Baun is located high on a mountain about an hour outside Kupang. It is a bit like going to a secluded rainforest retreat a bit like Maleny – somewhere you would go to get away from it all for the weekend. The little houses are tucked away in the rainforest and it just has the best feel about it. Fiona reckons she will live there part of the year and the rest she will become a seaweed farmer down near the harbour. I warned her about covering up well and not getting sun damage but I don’t think that was her major concern.
After our visit ends and we buy some textiles we walked a short way up the road to visit a new women’s co-operative that has been set up. The head weaver shows us the results of their experimentation with a new dyeing approach and the red colour they have achieved is amazingly deep and lush. Everyone agrees it is a great success.
The women have set up a credit union with training and support provided through Threads of Life and are very proud of their books and bring them out to show us. We saw the same in Looneke. As a banker myself this is great to see!
Fiona bought a new sash that she can use as a belt. It’s perfectly matched to her “colours”. I has a larger piece with an Amarasi “sleeping snakes” design. And we take our photos with the weavers of our pieces. Where we have been able, we have taken our photos of the weavers, with their pieces. This has the practical benefit of providing provenance but really it amuses everyone so much and generates gales of laughter every time, especially when you show the picture you have just taken. Everyone is delighted. Must try this in Australia!
Unbelievably, we have dinner at a restaurant called “Rotterdam Steakhouse”. It is super kitsch, with cheesy “dancing cheek to cheek” music, outdoors and right by the sea. Surprisingly everyone is pretty happy with what they have to eat. I have the vegetarian special - rice, tempeh and tofu. I spy a fantastic dessert on the menu but, like all the other fantastic desserts on the menu, it is actually off the menu. We all have icecream instead.