Island to Island – Textile Tour in Eastern Indonesia

 

Anklets clanking in time to the drums as the circle dance of welcome gains momentum

Anklets clanking in time to the drums as the circle dance of welcome gains momentum with the Abui people of Alor

How does a journey begin? I know how my early travels in Turkey evolved but in this case this journey began not with a single step but instead with a book. How in fact does a book on  Qaraqalpaq textiles of western Uzbekistan lead to a journey in Indonesia? I met David and Sue  Richardson initially through their extensively researched publication on Central Asian textiles – Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta. As we connected on social media I was intrigued by their technical passion for textiles and an upcoming textile tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands in Eastern Indonesia  that they had planned.  Needless to say, Jack and I marked our calendars anticipating our first travels in this varied culture.
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The Ombak Putih anchored as we visit a coastal weaving village

Sue and David partnered with a company from Bali named Seatrek and were the resident textile experts on board the Ombak Putih. The ship was a 42 meter sailing ship with twelve staterooms and a top notch crew of fourteen men. The service and culture on board was delightful relaxed and helpful. There was great attention to detail, certainly in terms of guest safety on board and transferring from ship to dinghy in varied conditions. Air conditioned cabins, a daily laundry service, housekeeping and awareness of special dietary needs made certain that all were comfortable and well cared for.
Rigging the sails

Rigging the sails

Photo Ops abound

Photo Ops abound

Upview of mast

Upview of mast

As we would return from our shore excursions to various weaving villages we would be greeted on board with cold, fresh squeezed fruit juice and cool,damp towels to mop our brows and refresh ourselves. The weather was hot and humid but being aboard the ship most always guaranteed some cooling breeze.  On a couple of evenings onboard we were treated to the crew serenading us with guitars, drums and song. One lovely star lit evening we had a beach picnic complete with candle light, torches and fresh seafood.  I loved going to the upper deck after dinner, laying on a sunbed and watching the heavens stream by as we motored along.

Drums, gongs, dance - a grand welcome for the Abui people of Alor

Drums, gongs, dance – a grand welcome from the Abui people of Takpala, Alor

The village welcomes often consisted of traditional singing, chanting and dancing. Villagers dressed in their ikat textiles and excited children added to the overall festivities.  We had various demonstrations of local dying and weaving traditions.  Indigo and morinda were the two main dye substances used for the textiles. Each of us came away with a renewed appreciation for how labour intensive both the dying and weaving processes are particularly in terms of producing hand loomed ikats.
Hand spinning cotton with a drop spindle

Hand spinning cotton with a drop spindle

 

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Fluffing/teasing the cotton with a bow

 

Indigo dying of the spun cotton

Indigo dying of the spun cotton

 

Registering/arranging warps on the loom before weaving

Registering/arranging warps on the loom before weaving

Ikat weaving - the pattern emerges

Ikat weaving – the pattern emerges

A local Indonesian guide provided excellent cultural insight in a lovely, relaxed manner all the while organizing the land transport and details in the villages on our daily excursions.  Part of our daily routine was a half hour pre-dinner power point lecture presented by David or Sue with an overview of the regional history, weaving traditions and a schedule for the following day. The lectures accompanied by extensive printed notes were meticulously prepared and presented. For me the handouts will be great reference materials when looking back and reviewing our travels.
Rich in history, stunning in topography and full of traditional culture our travels on these small islands were so memorable.  A journey that had it’s roots in a book about Qaraqalpaqistan led to a network of new friends and colleagues from around the world – America, Britain, Canada, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Taiwan and an introduction to the lush beauty of Indonesia.
Village ikat textiles for sale displayed on clothes lines

Village ikat textiles for sale displayed on clothes lines

David and Sue have a date on the calendar for 2016 for a similar expert led cruise.  I heartily recommend it!
Photo by Beverly Green

Photo by Beverly Green fellow traveler- Sunset from Shore after a Swim and Snorkle

 


5 Responses

  1. David and Sue Richardson says:

    Thanks for the kind words Catherine! We really enjoyed sharing our passion for this area with you.

  2. Michelle Pease says:

    Great blog Catherine, brought back many happy memories.

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      So glad to have met and shared these travels. Your appreciation and knowledge added to the group
      experience. Enjoy your acquisitions.

  3. carol mae woods says:

    catherine. what a wonderfully rich time for you in your textile journey. absolutely a one-off time for you and jack. hurray!
    carol

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      Hurray, indeed! It was such an interesting culture and super sharing the experience with textile lovers who were particularly knowledgable re: Indonesian textiles. I did learn a lot. Lots of fun sharing the experience with J.

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