For those of you who haven’t visited Easter Indonesia, you probably haven’t heard of Solor, Lembata, Alor and Adonara islands. These islands are located in the Lesser Sunda Islands, sandwiched between Flores sea and Savu sea. These small islands of Eastern Indonesia are still considered to be very remote for many visiting tourists, hence they are less explored, compared to West Nusa Tenggara (Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa), to be honest truly grateful that isn’t explored as much as Bali or Lombok, but Solor does deserve a good economic growth, much like any place in the world. The island is very green during the rainy seasons but looks fairly dry during the dry seasons.
Traditional handmade textiles from these regions are exquisite and still used for true ceremonial purposes. In the olden days, textiles were also made for everyday use such Sarong for use as skirts for women, and even for men, and shoulder cloth to use as baby slings.
Solor island, though very small, used to be recognized as one of the best ikat textile-producing islands in East Nusa Tenggara, but as culture and tradition evolved and young generations are more interested in modern clothing and can openly adopt a more modern approach to ceremonial events, such as during weddings where they can wear traditional costumes from other parts of East Nusa Tenggara or other regions of Indonesia. In today’s modern Indonesia, we could see Christians wedding ceremonies would wear modern western wedding costumes or Javanese traditional wedding costumes. As a result of this evolution, Solor traditional textiles production were slowly declining.
Weaving became a declining activity in Solor (and around weaving regions of Indonesia in general) as senior weavers also die and the young people of Solor have opted to migrate elsewhere to find jobs that promise steady income and quick cash. For decades Solor weaving industry laid dormant. A few senior weavers continued weaving in their own homes, but no longer bother to transfer their skills to the younger generations in the island.
Two years ago, Piter Ame Kewuren of PKBM Bensa Ema, a small charity which promotes education and helps to preserve Solor culture & tradition (inspired and with the help of his friend Mr Toni Lebuan of Wisata Tenun Lembata started a programme, encouraging skilful weavers to come up to the surface and create and celebrate the glory of Solor ikat again. Using a few old textiles owned by some of the older ladies, they started an experimental project in Lamawohong. Piter Ame Kewuren later expanded this programme and created several other projects, stretching across 8 villages around Solor.
In the olden days, Solor textiles were produced using hand-spun cotton and dyed using natural dyes. Sadly, some of those weavers and dyers with these amazing skills have long passed away. The process of reviving the handwoven textiles had to make do by using factory produced yarns and synthetic dyes to kick start the projects. Amazingly, the project took off slowly but smoothly and has shown great success. Solor’s weavers are weaving again and I am truly proud of Piter and Toni’s work.
In the past two years, Piter and his team from Bensa Ema, has worked tirelessly to make these projects successful and sustainable, and so far, they have achieved a great deal. I feel such an honour to have given the trust to get involved in the development of their projects going forward, working for Bensa Ema voluntarily/totally unpaid to help them develop their natural dye gardens.
I am organising affordable social eco-tours to Solor and many parts of East Nusa Tenggara in the future, and it would be great if you could join us and share your knowledge and experience with people of Solor. Come and help to empower women, preserver Solor textiles, develop better education and keep Solor green for future generations to enjoy.
If for any reason, you would like to visit Solor independently and in need of information on how to travel there, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I provide information and support free of charge over the phone.
For now, stay at home, stay safe, plan future trips with care and with the environment in mind.
Best wishes and Salam Wastra,