Sunday, 29 May 2016

Day 13 - Sumba

I woke up a bit later this morning and the sky was quite overcast, not much of a sunrise, but in retrospect this looks pretty spectacular. We were also joined by a pod of dolphins, lumba-lumba, to the side of the boat as we sailed towards the east coast of Sumba. We landed on the beach at Mololo and were driven by our local guide, Freddy, to the royal hamlet of Pau, where two Princesses live.

Most of the rice fields we saw on our way to Pau are owned by the King and are farmed by Suvanese slaves - yes slavery is still alive and well in Sumba and these slaves are known as papangan.  The two Princesses, Tamunambu Pakki and Tamunambu Tokung, are known for their very fine  pahikung weaving. This weaving is a supplementary warp technique which uses a white supplementary warp. The pattern defined with liddy sticks on a separate piece so that in effect the design is in front of them, like a cartoon, and the pattern is copied or transferred below.
This piece has been warped up with the top white supplementary threads. You can see the bottom indigo layer below and the pattern with the liddy sticks.

Here is another showing the weaving of the supplementary warp. The technique of ndatta is then employed, and this is the individual colouring of motifs or threads by using a brush, often a toothbrush, once it is woven.

Both Pau and nearby Rende are royal hamlets and these tombs are an integral  and very important part of life. When an aristocrat dies, the body is placed in a foetal position and wrapped in his or her finest cloth. The body is then bound with a lot of other cloths, but these do not have to be important ones. The last cloth however must be another fine cloth. The body is put in a coffin and placed in the family, home for up to several years.....right near the kitchen....! Death is an accepted part of life, and by leaving a substantial amount of time between the death and the internment of the body allows the family plenty of time to raise funds for the funeral - the calculating of how many animals will be slaughtered, raising the funds, inviting relatives, organising accommodation etc. it is as far away from the Western idea of death and burial as chalk and cheese.

Although the sacrifice of slaves when an aristocrat dies is prohibited there are stories about certain 'unfortunate accidents' that happen around these mausoleums involving the papangan that perhaps were helping to raise the large stone lids to inter the body of the deceased......
Overall we saw some gorgeous examples of woven cloths inside the Princesses house but this was done with little light and we were not allowed to take the cloths outside. It was all hush hush business so the people outside could not see what or if any cloths were being sold.
Rende was a similar village, slightly differently set up but with similar tombs and cloths. However, the Princess there wove some very fine baskets and showed us her collection.

Some of the cloths for sale around the village, employing a variety of techniques including ndatta, pahikung, ikat, mud dyeing, beading and indigo.

Two examples of Rohu Banggi, which are about 6-7m long. These were wrapped around the man's body to protect him like armour.
Textile production on Sumba is a cooperative venture - tasks are divided amongst villages for ikat tyeing, indigo dyeing, morinda dyeing and weaving. Most of the yarns we saw were commercially spun, and there were varieties in quality from those using commercial dyes, those using nautral dyes and those using a combination, especially with the ndatta cloths. It was also hard to tell whether the mud cloths were made with natural or synthetic dyes.
After a long hot day of looking at textiles we went ashore at night to have a wonderful beach barbeque that the staff of the Ombak Putih had prepared for us. Out on the dark beach, lit only by tea candles in the sand, we got to see a beautiful display of stars in the night sky with the Ombak Putih lit up and floating in the sea before us. Bliss.

Day 12 - Gurusina, Flores

We sailed overnight across the Savu Sea to the Bajawa Regency at the foot of Gunung Inierie. There is one active volcano in this area which is Ebu Lobo.

Our first trip was to visit Gurusina, home to the Ngada tribe, which is a matrilineal society - females inherit the house and the husband must move into her village or house and leave his own. This area has some really different architecture and rituals, which were explained in our nightly lecture by David and Sue.
This photo shows the village layout with 3 'parasol-like' structures in the centre and three narrow houses behind. These are the male (Ngadhu) and female (Bhaga) shrines respectively. In the male shrines they slaughter buffalo, whereas in the women's shrines they slaughter pigs and chickens.

The thatched roofs of the houses (sa'o) differ and many are decorated with a row of buffalo horns or pigs jaws on the front post. This signifies the number of animals sacrificed by that family for ceremonial purposes such as funerals etc. 

There are two types of house - the Tip house and the Trunk house. Villagers dry coconut and cocoa, and sell candlenut and vanilla pods as well as cinnamon bark. The houses are on terraced levels around the central area where the shrines and megalithic altars are.

Next, we went to the village of Bena which was very similar but had a great view from either end of the village.

We saw women weaving on their front porches with cloths for sale hanging, but many of these were woven in commercial yarns and their bright colours did not appeal to me.

At the very top end of the village we climbed to the top of a small hill where there was a catholic shrine.

The view from the top was spectacular, and the ipad camera does not do it justice.

As we left the village by car, there was another house on the road with a beautiful assortment of naturally dyed yarns waiting to be woven.

After a long hot day, we cooled down with a refreshing swim on a nearby beach, searching for shells on the shoreline, followed by a hot shower and 'arak-attack' cocktails on the upper deck before supper....thinking of what the weather is like in Canberra at the moment.....and only 2 days left of the cruise!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Day 10 - Kupang, East Timor

This photo was taken at 5.30 this morning as we approached the West coast of Timor after sailing overnight from Lamalera in Lambata. We disembarked at the old harbour where Captain Bligh landed in 1789 after the mutiny on the bounty, right out the front of Teddy's Bar. 

We were accompanied by local guide, Tony, for the day. Our first stop for the day was to visit the King of Amorosi.....

We were greeted by the children, some of whom were the King's grandchildren, who took our hands and guided us to the ceremonial welcome by elders, then onwards to the King's house ( I am not sure if that is called a palace in Amorosi)....

Again we were taken through the dyeing and weaving processes. To make  a dark black dye, the women dye firstly with indigo, then Morinda and then lumpur which is a mud, I guess iron-rich. They produce a purple from jati leaves and yellow comes from saffron or the skin of pomegranates and the bark.

These are balls of candlenut mixed with daun uta runa and water ready for pre-mordanting for Morinda dyeing.
This is the Morinda root alongside Loba bark.

Preparing the Morinda and indigo dyestuffs.

After watching the fabric dyeing we went to the papermaking studio where the King's 3rd daughter makes handmade paper from plants. There are 27 plants on the property she can use, but today she demonstrated making paper with the skin of the banana trunk and rumput gaja, a type of elephant grass.

The King of Amorosi, Bapak Robert Koroh, is a well-known printmaker who has had exhibitions at Nomad Gallery and whose work is in the collection of the NGA.
Before returning to the Ombak Putih for lunch we went to the  Museum which was fairly modern and veiwed their collection of textiles on display, again behind glass, so photography was difficult. They also had a lovely collection of baskets and jewellery, tools and ceramics.

This is a detail of an Amarasi weaving using natural dyes ( Morinda and indigo). The decorative motif in this design is called the "Bao naki", often worn by aristocracy.

In the afternoon we had another natural dyeing demonstration which was excellent, and we learnt a bit more about pre-mordanting with the nitas tree, using the skin of the fruits and the leaves, as well as a few other plants.

It was also the first time I saw them adding an alkaline water to the Morinda dye to effect the red colouring.
However some of the most charming things about going into a village is meeting the locals and I have just fallen in love with the young children who are so happy to connect with you, they are so cheeky and adorable!

The weaving was also beautiful and many of us were laden with purchases, wondering how we are going to get them home !

And of course the day ended with another beautiful sunset as we sailed towards Suva, our next destination.

Day 11 - Savu

Another beautiful sunrise as we sailed towards the island of Savu this morning. We went ashore at Napae Bay where Captain Cook  moored the HMS Endeavour after his expedition to Australia. We were met by Genevieve Duggan, a French anthropologist who has been researching the textiles of Savu since 1990.
Sue Richardson and Genevieve Duggan in Suvu.

Suvu has a population of around 80,000 people who are often described as "people who don't eat".
This is because the island is very dry and water is a huge issue. The Suvanese often live off the sap of the Lontar palm which apparaently fills you up so you don't feel hungry. Men climb up the trees twice a day to collect the sap, and a man could do about 40 trees in a day.

Our first visit was to the village of Pedarro in the region of Massara where we were greeted with ceremonial music and dancing.

We saw demonstrations of spinning, dyeing and ikat preparation and the younger girls were extracting the seeds from the Nitas fruit in order to use the oil in the pre-mordanting process.

This was used in conjunction with papaya leaves and oyang-oyang leaves.

For the first time we saw textiles that were not only woven with indigo threads but also whole cloths that had been overdayed with indigo.

The women have also revived the weaving of kenutu which is used in bridewealth exchange, and is almost like the marriage certificate. Here is Genevieve holding a fine example, which I later purchased.

After lunch back onboard the Ombak Putih we went ashore to br welcomed by local dancers and a ritual where a small offering is sent out to sea.

We then went to see the ikat-clad horsemen give a riding demonstration and then it was back into the bus for a trip to Namata village, where priests of the ancestral Jing Tui religion use megalithic stone platforms to conduct rituals and sacrifices.

This time it was the men who were dressed flamboyantly, with carved palm decorations on their arms and heads. They were almost like peacocks as they strutted around the female dancers. A second dance by the women was about harvesting and growing rice and another dance saw both men and women tied small woven boxes to their feet that were filled with rice to make rattling sounds as they stamped their feet.

As we left the beach for the  Ombak Putih we were again treated to a magnificent sunset.