Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
I will take you back to the mainland on the Indonesian island of Flores. If, like me, you cross the island, you will meet many people wearing traditional fabrics called ikat, very beautiful, whose patterns and colors differ from one region to another.
In Flores, it's not fair folklore of another age or tourism craft. Even if, of course, the sale to foreign visitors constitutes a significant source of income, especially for the inhabitants of the traditional villages of the magnificent region of Bajawa, where many tourists stop. But in real life, people wear ikat.
I've seen it everywhere, in the markets, in the villages. It is especially the old ladies who wear it.
I also met some men, an ikat around the kidneys. There are lots of ways to tie the ikat and wind in it, it can indifferently turn into a coat, shawl, skirt, sarong or baby carrier ...
It is a fabric that is expensive, up to 1 million rupees (about 80 €) for the most beautiful pieces. Related to the standard of living of the island, it's a hell of a lot. In the past, the dimensions, colors and designs of an ikat also reflected the social status of the wearer.
An ikat, it takes a lot of time to make, from several weeks to several months, because it is necessary to dye each weft thread in specific places, to form the future patterns, before the actual weaving. The most beautiful ikats are reserved for important occasions, ceremonies and family reunions.
Weaving ikat, a woman's job
Misir, my driver-guide, who made me discover Flores from east to west, stopped at a moment with a family of his acquaintance, so that I could observe a weaver in full action.
Nice people. The old lady very willingly agreed that I take her picture, with big smiles, while kindly lecturing the children intimidated by my presence.
Weaving the ikat is "obviously" a woman's job. It takes one to several weeks to weave a large canvas. In the traditional villages visited by tourists, the women make smaller ones, like table runners, for decoration, which they can sell more easily as souvenirs.
I have long observed the peaceful and patient work of this old lady, seated on the dusty floor, literally attached to her loom by a wooden strap and fabric in the back.
I am not particularly fond of traditional handicrafts and it's been a long time since I bring back "souvenirs" from my travels in Indonesia. But this job forces my admiration. It seems to me incredibly complex: you have to colour the threads in the right place, in advance, and then not make a mistake when arranging the weft, to reconstitute sometimes very elaborate drawings...
I was a little sorry to be already too busy, question baggage, by my diving bardas and my camera equipment. Otherwise, for once, I would have let myself try to bring back one of these beautiful fabrics, which really remain, in my mind, the symbol of Flores and the Small Islands of the Sunda.