Online auction of exquisite and rare handcrafted fabrics from eastern Indonesia

Ikat - A short history

Arguably the oldest ikats in existence came from China during the T’ang dynasty (7-10th centuries) but strong similarities in the woven motifs appear in the cloths of Timor, Flores and other Indonesian islands. According to Bedrich Forman, “Indonesian Batik and Ikat”(1988), “In the worldwide ikat-weaving tradition Indonesia, without any doubt, holds the most important position.” When and how ikat weaving began in Indonesia, and was influenced by trading and local interpretation over centuries, is a complex history. In Indonesia today, it is produced mainly on Kalimanatan, Bali, Sumba, Sulawesi, Flores and Timor. On Flores with its rugged terrain, isolated communities, many languages and local cultures, ikat weaving seems to have reached an apogee.

Ikat is a resist dye technique whereby the threads are tie dyed before weaving begins. The cotton threads to form the warp are tied and dyed in bundles to traditional patterns inherited and remembered by the women weavers. When strung on the loom, as the plain coloured weft threads are woven, the pattern appears. Many patterns and motifs have evolved over time and through exposure to historically traded textiles such as Indian Gujurati, silk patolah cloths.

In Flores, a person can be identified as coming from one of the five regencies by the patterning of their textile garments, such is the distinctive nature of the colours, motifs, patterns and techniques. “The handwoven textiles play a central role, serving not only as clothing, but also as key ingredients in a web of social and economic transactions and as a leading focus of artistic expression.” ( Roy Hamilton, “Gift of the Cotton Maiden: Textiles of Flores and the Solor Islands, 1994).

The significance of ikat textiles continues to this day in the secular and spiritual life of people on Flores despite the slow and sad decline in their production by traditional methods.

The Australian Friends of Flores Foundation

By Hilary Da Costa

Australian Friends of Flores (AFOF) came into functional existence in late 1998 and thus is entering its 23rd year this year. Working from a modest financial base of regular donors, and administered in Flores by Br. Gabriel Wangak, it has assisted 91 students from ages 15 to 27 to complete their studies at junior, senior and tertiary levels leading to the placement of many of these young people in the work force which then benefits themselves, their families, communities, and the nation in general.

The assistance to these 91 young people and their families over 23 years has been around $50,000 in total, an average of about $2,500 per year. Our original group of donors has shrunk a little over the years, sadly due to 4 deaths, but we also have been the recipient of an annual gift from the bequest of Mr. Dennis Cade made to AFOF on his death several years ago. Mr. Cade was an ardent supporter of International Society of Human Rights Australia (ISHRA). His foresight and generosity provide about half of our current annual commitments.

Without the dedicated, inspired and tireless work of Gabriel in Flores, for whom this project has become his private vocation, run entirely outside his appointed work but with the blessing of his employers, these results would never have been possible. The project will always stand as a testament to his compassion and care for the educational futures of the children of his fellow Flores citizens.

And without the generosity of the loyal and committed donors, most of whom have been with AFOF since its inception, this program would never have been started and followed through for 23 years. It truly is a case of “from little things big things grow”.

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