IO, Jakarta – Dini Jusuf was once a banker in a world centered around finance but then she went to Toraja and lost her heart to its culture and people. Eventually, Dini left her life in Jakarta married a Torajan and threw herself into the world of Torajan textile weavers. In 2010 she set up a foundation and company called Toraja Melo or Beautiful Toraja, for she had noticed a gap between what the weavers produced and what the big markets wanted. She decided to try to eliminate that gap by assisting the weavers with production problems, design and marketing. In 2014 Toraja Melo partnered with PEKKA an organization already working with 50,000 weavers in 20 provinces. In this way they would improve the living standards of the Indonesian weavers who are all women and also preserve and rejuvenate traditional hand woven textiles.
After the partnership with PEKKA, Dini decided to extend their work to Adonara and Lembata because these are amongst the poorest islands with weaving traditions which have not yet received assistance. First, they had to win the trust of the women on Adonara who admonished them, “Do not come here Mama to try to cheat us. Too many have already done so. Bring our textiles to Java, Mama.” Dini Jusuf says that it has proven to be a powerful journey of learning for both the organizations as well as the weavers.”
Sole Oha means the circle and dance of thanksgiving where the weavers lives are celebrated, as well as weaving togetherness. Behind each Indonesian textile stands a woman who wove it. The Indonesian textile expert Judi Achyadi expressed it, “This exhibition is not so much about cloth as it is about the women who weave the cloth. They live in societies where the men are powerful and this talent for weaving with which they are born provides them with a way out..”
The exhibition displays textiles from Mamasa and Toraja in Sulawesi and from the islands of Lembata and Adonara in the Bay of Larantuka in Flores. In the first room are displays of textiles from these areas specially created for modern markets with bright colours. On the right are textiles intended for the Jakarta market and on the left for the Japanese market.
Toraja Melo also collects and researches old textiles and traditions. In the main room the textiles organization Wastra Indonesia, helped display the textiles with the theme “from the sea shore to the mountains”. So the first displays are from Adonara. Traditionally they have always produced dark colours on handspun cotton. And their speciality is the floating warp.
The next exhibits are from Lembata, the island where traditional whale hunting with stone harpoons is still practiced. This is only done in the village of Lamalera however, where their textiles have whale images for the tourists. The Lembata textiles displayed are from another village and in their traditional textiles are also images of snake or dragon heads. In their beliefs it is not the weavers who weave but the dragon or snake and so when they west to Sa’da Mataelo in the east, moving in opposition to the sun so that the textile was called Sao Aloh. As a result until today the most weavers and the best textiles are from the Sa’da district. According to Dini Toraja weaving atterns are the third oldest in Indonesia. (IO)