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Women, weaving and delopement in Lombok

  • Nani Afrida

    The Jakarta Post

Sukarare, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara | Mon, April 22, 2013 | 12:45 pm
Women, weaving and delopement in Lombok

Inseparable: A group of Sasak women spend their day weaving traditional materials to earn money for their families. Learning how to weave is an obligation for the women.

If you happen to visit Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara and would like to take home some traditional woven fabric, stop by Sukarare village.

The area is the center of production for traditional hand-woven fabric from the Sasak tribe.

Production of the woven fabric '€“ techniques, patterns and motifs '€“ all involve age-old traditions that have been handed down through generations.

Sukarare is located in District Jonggot, Central Lombok, around 20 kilometers or 30 minutes from Mataram. The village has become a popular tourist destination in Lombok.

Besides purchasing the woven fabric directly from the craftswomen, tourists can watch the weaving process and can also attempt weaving under the guidance of Sasak women.

This is how it'€™s done: A Sasak woman teaches a visitor how to weave in Sukarare. Introducing the traditional weaving process to visitors is the way that the Sasak introduce their woven goods to outsiders.This is how it'€™s done: A Sasak woman teaches a visitor how to weave in Sukarare. Introducing the traditional weaving process to visitors is the way that the Sasak introduce their woven goods to outsiders.

Weaving has become inseparable to Sasak women.

'€œI learned to weave when I was 9 years old,'€ Ani, one of the weavers, said.

She said that it was difficult the first time, but after years of practicing, she now weaves like other women in her tribe.

Ani did not remember how much fabric she has made. '€œProbably a lot,'€ the girl said smiling.

The women spend months weaving materials. '€œHere, women must be able to weave,'€ Sofyan, a villager, said with a smile.

Sofyan said that according to Sasak tradition, if a girl cannot weave, she will not be allowed to marry.

'€œGirls are usually able to weave by the time they are 15 years old, the time when they are ready to get married,'€ he said.

Tribe members like to marry among themselves. The marriage process is different when compared to other areas in Indonesia. In other areas, if a man wants to marry a girl, he has to propose to his girlfriend and her for her family'€™s permission. For Sasak people, however, marriage proposals are considered humiliating.

The most honorable way is to '€œkidnap'€ the bride-to-be and take her to a relative'€™s house accompanied by close relatives and friends. This kind of marriage is called merarik in the Sasak language or elopement.

After the '€œkidnapping'€, the man'€™s relatives should conduct nyelabar, which is notifying the girl'€™s family that their daughter has stayed overnight in their house, without disclosing the exact current location of the girl. They will then contact the tribe head to get a permit for a wedding reception.

Sofyan said that if there were women who could not weave, but wanted to get married, they had to pay a fine in the form of money, rice or rice yields.

The Sasak tribe is native to Lombok Island. They speak the sasak language and a majority of them are muslims.

Sasak traditional woven fabric is famous in Indonesia and abroad. There are two kinds of handmade woven fabric; tenun ikat and songket with the various beautiful colors; yellow, green, black and red.

The base material of the woven fabric is cotton, which is taken from cotton trees near their neighborhood. The motifs are also diverse, including chickens, geckos and flowers.

Sofyan said that the most difficult motif for the weavers was called subanala or Subahanallah, which means the Glory be to Allah. The craftswomen spend around two months weaving this particular motif.

'€œWhile other motif only requires two weeks up to one month,'€ Sofyan said.

Sofyan said that all the motifs each had their own unique philosophy. For instance, the philosophy to not reveal family secrets to other people. '€œFamilies must stick together and if there is a problem, outsiders do not need to know,'€ Sofyan said.

Woven textile prices depend on the difficulty of the weaving process. For the subanala motif, the price starts at Rp 2 million (US$205.93). While the other motifs range from around Rp 500,000 up to Rp 2 million.

Values: One Sasak motif tells of keeping community secrets from outsiders.Values: One Sasak motif tells of keeping community secrets from outsiders.

Although many traditional woven fabric can be found in public markets in Lombok, the genuine ones can only be found in Sukarare, which helps the Sasak tribe in control their products.

'€œIf you find similar kinds of woven fabric, they are made by machines,'€ he said.

Sofyan and Ani said that woven fabric production in Sukarare was now under serious threat from fabric made by machines. Besides, woven fabric made by machine are also cheaper.

As head of the tribe, Sofyan is obliged to welcome guests visiting the woven fabric production site. He is one of a small number of males still living in Sukarare.

 '€œNow its mostly women here because most men have gone abroad to seek jobs. The economic situation has been rough,'€ he said, adding that people in Sasak were either farmers or weavers.

Women here now depend on tourists who visit and buy the woven fabric to support their families while their husbands are working abroad, usually in the Middle East.

'€œPlease try to weave so you learn about the process,'€ a Sasak tribe woman encouraged The Jakarta Post to try their traditional weaving equipment.

Tourists can also take pictures in traditional Sasak clothes.

Give it a try: A Sasak man helps a tourist wearing a headscarf.Give it a try: A Sasak man helps a tourist wearing a headscarf.

'€œThis is spectacular fabric, very beautiful,'€ Nonon Anindita, a visitor said.

She was happy to wear the traditional Sasak clothes and posed in front of a model of a traditional Sasak house in the clothing store.

A majority of Sasak tribe members only graduated from junior high school. Most of the people can read but cannot write. As result, they have experienced difficulties in attaining proper and formal jobs.

'€œI want my children to recieve a college education, not like their mother,'€ Ani said.

- Photos by JP/Nani Afrida

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