I have just had the best holiday ever. I went to Timor in Indonesia (aka West Timor before the independence of Timor L’este). Our guides were Ruth Hadlow and Ony Made. The trip was organised by Active Travel (http://activetravel.com.au/Trips/west-timor-textiles-culture/).
In addition to an enormous amount of Timorese culture, and some vocabulary in Bahasa Indonesian, I learned a lot about the different kinds of traditional weaving in Timor. I was able to buy, direct from the weavers in each village we visited, examples of sotis, ikat, buna and tapestry weaving. In each village we were warmly welcomed with dancing and food, given demonstrations of natural dyeing and weaving and then provided with a gallery of beautiful cloths to buy if we wanted.
I hadn’t anticipated the degree of wanting!!! My luggage weight exiting Perth was 10.3 kg. Checking in for the return journey at Denpasar it was 33.6kg in two cases (not including my newly acquired and very plump back pack!) Thank you to Virgin Airlines for waiving the US$100 fee for the extra case!
The trip was not five star. It could not be. Timor is a very poor place. Part of Indonesia, it is a forgotten island. Without the rich volcanic soils of other places like Bali the life of its citizens is hand to mouth. The great thing about going there is that you can not only appreciate the beautiful traditional cloth but you can buy it, knowing that the money you pay is going into the hands of the weavers and will be used to educate their children (school fees are charged even for government schools) and health care costs.
I went to West Timor with my friend Anne Williams, a fellow member of WAFTA. Anne and I will present our textile purchases and our insights at a WAFTA meeting early in the WAFTA year of 2016. We will have a special focus on the Yayasan Tafean Pah Foundation(YTP). YTP has grown over the past twenty years and now has 14 weaving cooperatives spread over the Biboki , Insana and Miomafo regions . YTP supports the weaving cooperatives by providing access to dyes, training in weaving, dyeing and design skills, cooperative management skills, and an outlet for the textiles produced by the weavers.