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Indonesia and Thailand 06'

On a recent trip to West Timor and Rote Island, which lay southwest of the Indonesian Archipelago, my friend, Anik, from Rote Island, and I went searching for traditional textiles in order to stock Textile
Connection. I had met Anik a few years ago while on my way through Bali. Her open invitation to visit and buy Rote Island weavings for which the island is famous, was a focal point of my buying trip.

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Flying into the main city of west Timor, Kupang, we took a local bus to Soe. From Soe we bussed to nearby highland villages and markets. Narrow winding roads offered spectacular scenery with the approach to a village marked by traditional beehive shaped houses. The villagers stage local markets once a week in each village from mid morning until early afternoon. Disembarking from our bus
it was a simple matter of following the crowd to the market site. Dressed in their traditional Ikat sarongs, the residents greeted me with their characteristic bright red smiles. (Ikat-from the Malaysian word "Mengikat", to bind, tie or wind. Woven fabric in which the threads are tied for dying before weaving. Sarong- a garment made from a two meter piece of woven cloth, worn like a skirt, by men and women in the East Indies. The difference in the quality of the cloth is evident as the older work was much finer in texture and design than the more recent pieces). In the market was a variety of
goods: fruits, vegetables, hand spun and dyed yarns, used clothing and housewares. After a bit of searching, we found a small section of the market selling traditional Ikat cloth/sarongs. Colorful new pieces were interspersed with worn older pieces. My best luck came from seeing someone wearing a piece I admired. Anik took over and bargained for me. The villagers were not prepared for my desire for their traditional textiles as their market reflected the local's desire for modern products. Tourism is rare in this part of the Indonesian Islands. I was the only Westerner present in the markets.

From Kupang, Anik and I flew to Rote, the southernmost island in Indonesia. Rote Island is the home of Anik’s village, Ingguinak. Well off the beaten path, her village has no electricity or phones so our arrival was a big surprise for her family. My stay in Ingguinak was the highlight of my travels. The villager's generosity, hospitality, kindness as well as curiosity created a rich experience for me. For many in the village, I was the first Westerner they had encountered. When the purpose of my visit to the village was made known, I was approached with fine examples of classic Rote Island Ikat weavings. In gatherings arranged in Aniks family home, I obtained wonderful examples of the exquisite textile work both old and new. My friendship with Anik and her invitation to visit her village offered me an opportunity few have had the chance to experience. After a week and a half we departed West Timor for Bali, where I purchased quality batik sarongs, then on to Thailand for a new selection of cotton and hemp fabric.

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