Sole Oha: An exhibition of woven cloths from magical places

Sole Oha woven clothes, an art piece identical with Tana Toraja, was being displayed at The Textile Museum in Central Jakarta. (photo: IO/Nurhidayat)

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)