My lovely friend Olvira Ballo, who also the Program Manager of our small charity, Connect Indonesia (www.connectindonesia.org), is originated from Rote island. Olvira (I call her Ira) is a Rote girl through and through, she loves this island so much and very proud of her ancestor too.
In 2014, on my first visit to Kupang, and my first meeting with Ira, she started introducing me to Rote culture and tradition. She took me to a Sasando (the Rote music instrument, partly made from palm leaf) centre, managed by the late Mr Pah, whose children have travelled the world playing Sasando. This instrument is so unique, I fell in love with it immediately. I took a few videos in the centre of Mr Pah’s sons playing Sasando and of an Australian boy intensively practising it, who was also deeply in love with this instrument. In the centre, Mr Pah’s wife also displayed a few Rote ikat textiles, and she had a small weaving centre there. The desire to wanting to know more about Rote grew bigger and stronger by the day.
2 years later, our good friend Mery Mesah, also originated from Rote, has very kindly arranged a meeting for us with the DEKRANASDA (the Rote Craft Council) team, and in September 2016, we headed to Rote, during the very dry season, when really not much growing there during this time. At that time of our visit, DEKRANASDA was headed by Mrs Paulina Haning-Bullu, who was then the wife of the Bupati (the head of the state – Mr Less Haning). Last year, Mrs Paulina Haning-Bullu secured the local government election and successfully succeeded her husband position as Bupati, she is now the head of state in Rote Nndao region. A meeting for us to meet the weavers of Nembrala was also arranged by our Project team, Mrs Doli Nuban Porwata, with the help of her relative who lives there. We were so grateful with all the support we received from everyone.
During our visit to Rote in 2016, Mrs Haning-Bullu had very kindly guided us to explore many parts of the island, from North to South, introducing us to many weaving villages, and small home industries managed by women. Life could be very challenging here in Rote Ndao, particularly during the dry season, as it would be very little rainfall during this time. We didn’t make it to Ndao island, known as weaving island, we hope to visit this island one day in the future.
During the 3 days we spent exploring Rote, we saw some truly amazing Rote ikat processes, but probably about 80% of the textiles produced there were then dyed and produced using synthetic dyes, and not sure the situation of their textiles processes today. The good news was, we were told that there were naturally dyed ikat projects being managed in the islands and some of these ikat textiles were ready to venture the market. Mrs Irawti Fattu (a member of the DEKRANASDA team), was very involved in these projects at that time. Rote’s traditional textiles are mostly in Black and red (morinda red) colours with white or light cream background, truly gorgeous combinations.
When I looked at the old textiles, there were similarities with the ikat designs from Savu island, but of course, I need to undertake a long study to fully understand the connection between the two islands. I was told many times, that there is a very close connection between the people of Savu-Raijua and the people of Ndao island, where a similar language is spoken family/dialect is spoken.
I have a high hope that Mrs Paulina Haning-Bullu, will encourage her DEKRANASDA team, to pursue these natural dye ikat projects, producing more amazing rote traditional “adat” motifs for the next generations to enjoy. We hope to visit Rote again one day when time and condition permit.
I will be sharing a lot more stories from our Rote visit, particularly stories about the weavers and the textiles.
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Nelly N Andon (Br Torus)