Keeping the Craft Alive: The Stories of Tapestry

Posted on

How do some traditions stay while others die? Why can some knowledge be passed on to the next generation while others are lost forever in time?

On an island where culture is truly alive it’s easy to assume that traditions will remain forever, but that’s not the case. To stay, they have to adapt. Change, ironically, is the one constant thing, and when it comes to the traditions of Bali’s craft scene, change has been the vehicle of both preservation and abandonment.

This is the first part of a three part article on “Keeping the Craft Alive”, please read all three parts Download our free May-June edition here.

Part 1: The tapestry stories

Textiles have a special place in Bali’s cultural heritage, the use of textiles is a living tradition in itself. Steeped in symbolism and meaning, they are more than just a piece of clothing. THE pollen, THE ideas ideas and the bebali cloths are required in the ritual; and then there is also the appropriate formal attire that one must wear. This has created a vibrant variety of textiles on the island.

Traditionally, many of these fabrics were made by hand. The cotton was picked, spun and colored with natural dyes, then the women wove in their homes. A village craft in its purest form. But despite the constant demand for rites and rituals, Bali’s population of weavers has dwindled over the decades.

threads of life, a fair trade company dedicated to supporting Indonesia’s textile arts since 1998, it has been part of the resurgence of weaving traditions across the island.

An example of this was the revival of tea applaud emblematic ritual cloth of Nusa Penida. Its striking earthy red comes from the deep roots of the Morinda tree, which had been overharvested until it did not exist on the island. Threads of Life facilitated the replanting of 500 Morinda trees to ensure a future supply; but also had to introduce a natural red dye recipe from Sumba to revive the “lost knowledge” of the natural dyeing process.

Time is truly a tyrant: only in a generation can the flame of knowledge go out, which is why the embers must be constantly fed.

There are many factors that draw people to their craft. When Bali’s tourism industry began to grow in the 1980s, many women traded their looms for labour: carrying stones on their heads for infrastructure projects provided better financial security than their gorgeous tapestries. As well as the hospitality industry. Slowly, with fewer and fewer people weaving this inherited knowledge into a physical form, evidence of its existence fades from the memories of not just the makers, but its users as well.

The simplest fabrics thus take their place in everyday use. They are affordable and can pass the benchmark, but lack the soul possessed by its original predecessor. No connection to the earth or to the descendants. Some generations know this only this one, robbed of a great inheritance.

There is hope of course. The end, delicate applaud of Nusa Penida is in great demand, mainly from the local Balinese market. There is now prestige attached to wearing the traditional naturally dyed fabric. As living standards rise, so does the need for class and quality in formal wear. The same goes for the questionable, the traditional “court cloths” of Sidemen, Karangasem Regency. A growing local market has helped these crafts not only revive but thrive. Weavers may stay at their looms if there is a market for their work; a promised income is generally the most crucial factor.

Such fabrics are aesthetic, fashionable and prestigious – what about a fabric that has none of these attributes? This is the current challenge for Threads of Life.

There is a category of uncut warp babies (ritual) cloths used for specific ceremonies, such as the rainbow Prembonthe black and white distantand white warehouse These memorabilia have largely been abandoned, replaced by plain polyester. Though simple enough in outline, their symbolism is profound. Woven with stripes and checks, these fabrics are used for essential rites of passage, life cycle ceremonies such as the 3-month-old baby’s ground contact ceremonies (to remove)tooth filing (metatah) and cremations (cremation).

The colors of these fabrics are stories of how we relate to the earth and the elements, such as eggs, stones and alang-alang grass; their stripes and checkered patterns symbolize borders, boundaries and balance. These legendary symbolisms would be taught in ceremonies, becoming embodied knowledge. Some Balinese never grew up with these important lessons. Plus, the original fabrics would last for decades, reused over and over again, all the while collecting and creating keepsakes.

When it comes to the ‘revival’ of such a fabric, Threads of Life believes there is power in cultural memory. That if reintroduced in the right communities, the nostalgic ones of a time where everything meant something, then the question will spread. There is a wordless appeal to them, something magical and emotional, something ‘taksu’ in the fabric that seems to be alive. Maybe the bebali soon the weavers too will be busy again.

Threads of Life
Instagram: @threadsoflifebali

This is the first part of a three part article on “Keeping the Craft Alive”, please read all three parts Download our free May-June edition here.

Edward Speir

Edward Speir

Edward, or Eddy as he prefers to be called, is the managing editor of NOW! Bali and host of NOW! Bali Podcasts. He enjoys photography, rural travel and he loves that his work introduces him to people from all walks of life.

Quoted From Many Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *