The weavers of Bali are dusting off their looms in a small traditional village just outside Ubud. In Pejeng Kangin, a long-forgotten artisan craft is coming back.
This is just one of three recent village initiatives. It all started when David Metcalf, a local expat originally from New Zealand, went to his Banjar (local village council) and asked what he could do to help during the COVID-19 crisis. The village leader, Made Astawa, and David agreed on some early priorities, and David sprung into action. He teamed up with part-time resident, Suzan Badgley from Canada, to set up a fund to help out. They sought donations from a wider circle of friends who love Bali plus business colleagues, and the word spread.
Made identified employment creation as a first priority. David had heard a story some time back that one of the weavers of Pejeng Kangin used to make handwoven silk and cotton brocade for the daughter of Suharto (President of Indonesia 1967-1998).
He went on a hunt and did indeed meet the master weaver, Ibu Agung, and also discovered Ibu Klemik and Apel Murtini. It turns out there was not just one, but three very gifted and talented weavers in the village. There was agreement that the women would share their weaving skills and knowledge with other women in the village and teaching would commence that week. Those old looms reappeared from hidden corners and saw the light of day, yet again.
Once the word went out, a number of local women immediately showed an interest. With the help of the donations, extra looms were acquired, and the women bought cotton and silk thread at the Klungkung Markets. Just two weeks later, Pejeng Kangin had re-established its ikat cottage industry. Twelve women are now clacking away on their looms in the village six days a week.
Ibu Putu was already heading up the village Women’s Rice Community (KWT Manik Mertasari) but happily took on the new role of chief of the weaving circle. She came up with a novel idea. If you want an ikat, you are asked to ‘pay it forward’ at the time of ordering so the weavers can buy the materials they need to get started. Ibu Putu can send you photos, and videos as your ikat progresses. Once completed, your ikat, perhaps a table runner, sarong, shawl or wall hanging can be shipped to you. Better still, when Bali opens for tourism, you can come directly to the village and meet the weavers in person and collect it.
Balinese woman have always been resourceful and creative in difficult times. Ibu Putu, for example, also had a thriving cooking school called Ubud Village Plate which linked tourists with local families. That business is on hold for now, but it seems she can put her hand to anything. She is clearly relishing her work with the weaving circle. As she explained, “We all think it’s important to keep the weaving tradition alive. But, more than that, we really need jobs. Our husbands are out of work. Most of them were drivers or hotel workers or worked in cafes and restaurants. We must step up to the mark now.”
Local Food Packages
The next issue Made and David decided to tackle was food. Almost every family in the village, 180 in all, has close to no income and there is an urgent need for food staples
Donations to date have enabled the purchase of supplies, and the Banjar delivered 170 packs with rice, noodles, cooking oil and eggs to every household last week. Twenty local volunteers went out on foot with a list, every home that needed help was ticked off, and no one was left out. “That is very important,” said Made, “If we give to one, we give to all. We live by adat (traditional) law, and this is our way”.
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