How do women become the guardian of a 300-year-old weaving history to safeguard their environment, livelihood and cultural legacy? In Sambas, West Kalimantan, part of Indonesian Borneo has witnessed how income deprivation led them to find a dire solution. In order to support their families, most women find work as migrant workers overseas. Those who stay, against the odds, are encouraged to find other alternatives. Weaving is one of the alternatives that has been taught for generations by women to their daughters.
Lunggi, in which Sambas weaving tradition is called, has existed around 300 hundred years ago since Sultan Muhammad Tsjafioeddin I of Sambas Sultanate. The weaving patterns are vivid and have significant features drawn from nature-related theme featuring plants and bamboo shoots. The fabric is meticulously handcrafted with golden thread, golden-dyed polyester. The epicenter of the tradition is in the villages of Jagur, Tanjung Mekar and Sumber Harapan in Sambas Sub-district and Jirak and Tengguli in Sajad Sub-district.
Weaving, Women, and Livelihood
Since almost a decade ago, in 2013, Gemawan Association with support from Switchasia, have assisted and encouraged weavers to use natural-dye coloring for their Lunggi weaving. The weavers have been trained to develop their skills and raised awareness towards natural conservation. The weavers use natural-dye resources extracted from leaves, fruits and plants around their homes. Local weavers were also trained as weaving instructors to share and collaborate with their members and their communities. The practices lessen the use of chemical materials which in turn contribute to the preservation of their natural environment.
Surprisingly, with natural-dye color, the fabric looks fabulous with pastel tone features as opposed to artificial bright-looking from chemicals coloring. The fabric and its design have attracted national fashion designers who showcase them abroad even farther to Malaysia and China. The movement has gained enormous support from the local, national governments and stakeholders. For instance, UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicraft were awarded through the amazing handcrafted weavers, Budiana and Nurlela. Consecutively in 2014, they were also awarded the Award for Excellence for Handicrafts by World Craft Council for their Turtles and Gold Pillars theme.
Now, Budiana and Nurlela, along with several other women like her, work with at least twenty women who quit their job as migrant workers to tirelessly preserve their environment and culture whilst at the same time also support their families’ livelihood from weaving. The women continue to be the guardians of their cultural legacy by empowering women and their communities to transfer their skills in weaving using techniques and process of natural-dye coloring.
Uray Endang Kusumajaya, Board of Gemawan
West Kalimantan, Indonesia