Traditional Sasak Weaver’s Craft Village

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Traditional Sasak Weaving
On our way back to Kuta from Senggigi, Abdul decided we would take a different route. This consisted of driving through the warren of streets that comprises Mataram, the capital of Lombok. Abdul explained that Mataram had only grown up fairly recently, probably since 2007. As always in Lombok there are many motorbikes and scooters on the road. Most have at least two people – the driver and the pillion – but many have three or even four passengers. Children and babies are squashed in between rider and pillion or stand in front of the driver so as to lean on the handlebars. I saw one little fellow fast asleep. What was unusual was that he had on a crash helmet. The pillion passengers are often women and some of them sit side-saddle. Being predominantly Muslim, the women often wear a veil, similar to that which the Roman Catholic nuns wear, or used to wear. Their posture (both women and men) is uniformly excellent. Just in passing, I was entranced at how many men had small feet. Abdul easily fitted into my Reeboks; Roland’s thongs (flip-flops for non-Aussie readers) were miles too big!
Having negotiated Mataram, we were once again on the Praya – Senggigi bypass but not for long. Abdul turned off in one of the many small villages along the way and took us down the back roads to a craft village. In this case it was a weaving village; an eye-opener for both of us.
We were able to watch the Sasak women weavers at their looms. Each one sitting more-or-less in isolation on the concrete platform. Each woman weaves a pattern traditional to her own family. Our Guide, Angie, explained that girls start learning to weave at about 9 years old. By the time they are 13 they are usually quite proficient. A girl does not marry until she is an accomplished weaver. The reason for this is practical economics. The primary source of income in Lombok is agriculture – but, due to the aridity of this area, crops are not a dependable source of income; hence, the women’s weaving brings in much needed cash. The community has set up a cooperative where the women sell their beautiful woven goods to the public (tourists). To set up, the cooperative loans a woman enough money to purchase the thread and whatever else may be needed. Angie told us that each length of fabric takes up to three months to prepare and weave so the initial loan is vital. When the woven cloth is sold, the profits are shared among the women and further loans are negotiated. Angie said, “No men are involved!” (and then promptly gave the cash I paid for my purchases over to a man!)
The set-up is the only time that nylon thread is used. Each segment is separated by bamboo canes – as you can see in the photo. The patterns are complex and the colours vary from natural greens and browns to quite vivid purple and yellow. Personally, I like a bit of bling so my purchases reflected that! For the equivalent of $100 Aussie, I bought three beautiful lengths of fabric. I don’t even want to think how that equates to earnings per hours worked …
Preparing the pattern
The weaving woman sits erect on the concrete with her legs straight out in front. Her back is supported by a shaped wooden rod that fits just above the hips, below the waist. This is connected to, and helps stabalise, the loom. You can see it quite clearly in the photo below. A weight is suspended above the loom for traction. The thread is dyed and can be silk or some other natural fibre.
At the loom
There was a little girl (less than 18 months old) with one of the weaving women. She was playing with an enormous pair of scissors and I had to ask Angie to please take them away from her! In my mind’s eye could see her fingers being severed – grandmother instinct takes over …
I hope this video clip works. I was enchanted by the graceful movements and cheerful demeanour of the weaving women, so beautiful.
The Weaver’s village is a dusty place. There are hens wandering about and, in a very small pen, a goat making plaintive bleating noises. There was a whelping bitch who barked at us. I don’t know why these dogs disturb me so much.
More to come so hang in there.
Traditional Sasak Weaver’s Craft Village