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The Weavers

The first step is admitting you have a problem: I love textiles, but textiles are an expensive habit to have. So I really shouldn’t have gone to a weaving village…

After walking around the market, Pasar Bolu, Chloe and I decided we wanted to visit a weaving village that was, according to Lonely Planet, supposed to have a market. So from Pasar Bolu we go into a public minivan. We drove for some time and finally asked and realized we had passed where we were trying to go. So we got out and started walking and hoped another minivan would pass. The confusion started as we got off the minivan — some people said there was no market that day in the village we were trying to reach. While we walked back down the road we got conflicting advice. I stopped to buy some water and the woman suggested we go to Sa’dan and she hailed a van for us.

As luck would have it, there was a weaver, Linda, in the van and she took us to the small village of To’barana next to Sa’dan. As men farm and harvest rice, women sit on the ground at wooden looms in stalls lining the small neighboring villages of Sa’dan and To’barana in the hills of Tana Toraja. On this rainy day, my friend and I were the only visitors.

We browsed Linda’s shop in To’barana and chatted with her and her sister. They told us about their lives, the fast-approaching marriage of a daughter and of course the prices of the weavings. Chloe and I wanted to see both villages, so we said we’d return. See the pink weaving on the bottom rack? Let’s just say I came back for that one.

From To’barana we walked to Sa’dan, getting directions along the way:

Traditional Torajan homes, tongkonan, being built:

On our walk to Sa’dan we met Asti. As she friends me on Facebook, 17-year-old weaver Asti tells me she comes from a multigenerational line of weavers. Her mother and grandmother taught her the craft and she proudly shows me her pieces while practicing her English. Her aunt Yuli (first picture of the post) showed us how to work the looms. Asti and I still occasionally chat on Facebook, globalization and technology at its finest. Asti and a family member:

After Chloe made a purchase, we walked back to Linda’s shop because I decided I needed the pink weaving.

While we sipped the hot, sugary Torajan coffee Linda offered us, she explained how it can take over a month to complete a large weaving. The purple pattern on the traditional ikat weaving represents the horns of a water buffalo, an animal sacrificed at the elaborate multi-day funerals in Tana Toraja. Linda explains that the purple color comes from a natural dye made from bark and the bright reds come from chili peppers. When she unfolds the large weaving, Linda runs her hand down the middle section showing the hidden stitches that connect two identical pieces. The traditional looms are too narrow to produce large works, she says, so pieces must be sewn together. When I ask the name of her stall, she laughs and explains that there is no name even though it has been there for 30 years. Chloe liked another weaving and after a lot of bargaining (we’ll give you a discount because you speak Indonesian, we’d give you an even bigger one if you spoke bahasa Toraya!) she decided to go for it. So Linda got into a minivan with us and we headed back to Rantepao so we could hit up the ATM — now that’s service! My weaving was well worth the $170. I recently saw one on sale in California going for well over $300.

The best part? Whenever I look at my beautiful pink weaving with its water buffalo horn pattern, I think of that rainy day in two beautiful villages in Sulawesi, Indonesia and the charming, warm women weavers who we spent it with.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have just the same problem and it is an expensive habit. But, as you said, those beautiful fabrics and textiles are part of ones memories of a place/experience and that’s my excuse also and I’m sticking to it. :)

    December 18, 2012
    • It’s a good excuse :) I’ve used it before and plan on using it in the future!

      December 18, 2012

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