April 30, 2020

Mama’s Legacy to Princess Alor

Moru Village, Alor Barat Daya District, East Nusa Tenggara.

The sound of the beach breeze, racing against the rattles of looms from dozens of women who are weaving a piece of cloth. Several pieces of woven fabric with various bright color motifs, hung on the front of the house which is a Moru Weaving House located in Moru Village, Southwest Alor District, East Nusa Tenggara. The atmosphere in the corner of the village on Alor Island, that afternoon, was like a small paradise: beautiful, calm and peaceful.

A woman, Saina Besikari, cool spinning yarn after thread. That day, he will complete a typical Alor weaving. He is no longer young, 72 years old, but he still keeps weaving, every day. “I made my living from weaving since I was 17 years old,” he said. His hands kept moving, left and right, like a skilled dancer who already understood his movements well.

Nearby, dozens of women also cool spinning yarn. Occasionally they chatted, releasing fatigue, rising up to the sound of lapping looms and the beach breeze. Moru Village is the weaving center of the Kui Tribe. In this village, only weavers who have inherited the Kui Weaving culture have been handed down from generation to generation. From mama-mama, to her daughter, down to the third generation, fourth generation, and so on, until now.

Kui Weaving Craft began in 1619 AD. In the past, the Kingdom of Kui became one of the centers of civilization in Alor Island. Lerabaing Village is home to Muslim weavers in the Kui Kingdom. Lerabaing then split into two villages namely Bombaru Village and Moru Village.

In NTT, woven fabrics are not just everyday clothes. This cloth has many functions in adat, namely being a dowry, rewards at death ceremonies, payment of traditional fines, medium of exchange (money), symbols of social strata, rewards to guests, and for resisting disasters.

As thick as weaving with traditional rituals in NTT, it is no wonder that the majority of women in this area can weave. “Almost all mothers in Moru Village can weave,” said Rahima Plaikara, Chairperson of the Moru Village Weaving Group at the Moru Weaving House. Moru Weaving House was built by PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (PT SMI), as part of the company’s social care towards empowering women and preserving NTT’s weaving.

In this Weaving House, Mama Rahima gathered 15 weavers from Moru Village. In that place, once a week, they gather to weave together. “Only 15 people have been invited by us even though there are hundreds of mothers who can weave, because this is only the first pilot. We choose the best weave,” said the 52-year-old woman who has been weaving for more than 35 years as her main occupation.

PT SMI is interested in building a weaving center in Moru Village so that the weavers have a place to weave together. In addition, their products can be sold in this place so they no longer have to go to the market, sell their products themselves. The quality of weaving between one weaver and the other, is also maintained so as not to differ.

“In Alor there is the term mountain and beach. Beach people weave, mountain people buy, “said Rahima. Weavers have always been Muslim women from Lerabaing Village, while those who need traditional cloth are people who live in the mountains which are predominantly Christian.

PT SMI built two halls on land owned by residents. The first hall is a place for women to weave, and the second is a place for displaying woven cloth and scarves typical of the Kui tribe. Now, buyers no longer need to wait for market days to buy Alor weaving. They just come to the Weaving House every day and can get products with the same price and quality.

PT SMI also donates sewing machines to transform woven fabrics into fashion items such as bags, wallets, clothing, and other value-added products. Do not stop there, PT SMI also provides a portable computer or laptop for online transactions. Yayasan Insan Bumi Mandiri (IBM), PT SMI’s partner in implementing the Alor women’s empowerment project, provided training in design, product development, and how to market their products, including online.

Through online sales, it is hoped that Alor’s weaving will be more widely known both in Indonesia and abroad. The impact is of course multiple. With more recognition, Alor fabric buyers will arrive from eight directions. The effect, the economy of the community, especially mothers of weaving craftsmen will increase. Tourists, both local and foreign, are interested in coming to Alor. If that’s the case, the ultimate impact is the preservation of Alor’s typical woven fabrics can be maintained.

Rahima said the Weaving House built by PT SMI indeed changed many things. In the past, when the rain came and the wind was strong, my mother stopped weaving because they usually weaved under a tree, in the yard. Now, rain and strong winds are no longer an obstacle. Mothers can still weave in a sturdy and comfortable weaving house. “Weavers now also do not need to go far to the market to sell their weaves. Enough is displayed in the hall, because the buyer already knows this place. Those who come here, “he said.

Besides Southwest Alor (ABAD), weaving centers also exist in Northwest Alor (ABAL) and East Alor. ABAD and East Alor both have songket weaves, while in ABAL, weaving type is ikat. ABAD’s Kui Moru woven is divided into two types. What is used by women is called the Three Lirang Gloves, while for men it is called the Nawon Akan or Blanket Gloves.

Women’s weaving should not be used by men, and vice versa. The price of Kui Moru’s weaving is determined based on his motives. The price of the Nawon will be determined from how many pictures of woven human flowers or Mar flowers are in the woven fabric. Kui’s ancestors got Mar’s inspiration from bamboo trees that at first glance resembled human shapes.

Rahima shows a sheet of Akan Nawon with a total Mar’s flowers of 16, which costs Rp 900 thousand per piece. Fabric with Mar’s flowers of 18, the price is one million rupiahs and the one with flowering 12 is valued at Rp 700 thousand. The amount of interest in the cloth also determines the value of belis (ransom) in traditional marriages in Alor.

For women’s weaving, the more barriers the more expensive the price. The price of Kui Moru woven gloves for women is between Rp 800 thousand to Rp 1.6 million. One sheet of woven fabric is done for about one month, while one shawl can be finished in one week.

With perseverance, the Moru women spin yarn after thread. Incised motives with deft hands. Every movement of their hands, reminiscent of mama and ancestors, who had passed down a priceless inheritance. There is a provision in this area that only women who have menstruated are allowed to weave.

Mama will prepare her daughter who enters adulthood to inherit the Kui Moru woven. Beautiful, full of meaning, but of course, not easy. Waist tied, legs pressed. Sometimes tears come to drip. “But, we are proud to be able to produce works that make a living for families. Children can become graduates from the sale of woven fabrics,” Rahima said.

Alor weaving activist who could not pass down his weaving because he did not have a daughter, advised, “Take care of our heritage, so that it can be the pride of the nation.”

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