Lab for Ikat – Launching Ikat into the Future
Written: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz & Edited: Can Ergan
Following up on our recent blog series where we uncover CCD-NL’s on-going and upcoming projects, we bring to you the profile of yet another fascinating project which will be launched later this year: Lab for Ikat. In order to get a full understanding of what the project is about, we spoke to CCD-NL’s very own Julita Oetojo and Valentina Tabunscic who are currently working to bring this project to light. This article is essentially a profile of the project and it will tell you everything you need to know about CCD-NL’s latest endeavor.
Introducing: Lab for Ikat
Building on one of CCD-NL’s previous projects – Binding with Ikat: Binding Cultures in Times of Crisis – Lab for Ikat is an extremely ambitious and exciting project which will, without a doubt, leave its mark in the preservation of Ikat’s legacy. Described by the project’s coordinator as the “real deal” when compared to its predecessor, Lab for Ikat is recreating the platform made for Binding with Ikat whereby contemporary Dutch designers and Indonesian Ikat artisans came
together to engage in a profound exchange of knowledge, skills and ideas related to textiles as whole and, of course, Ikat in particular. Lab for Ikat will now be expanding and, I dare say, improving this by adding a new element of experimentation and co-creation that is meant to
foster the creation of new, innovative Ikat products. As the name suggests, Lab for Ikat is intended to function as a laboratory in which everyone who chooses to participate will create something of their own, be it a product or a concept, that takes inspiration from and adds to the rich repertoire of Ikat textile culture.
The project will last approximately 7 months and it is expected to start this coming October, 2022. Moreover, it will consist of a total of four separate stages. The first stage is an open call through which interested participants will be selected to partake in the project. This group of participants will be made up of fashion students and recent graduates, designers and young artists whose genius will be the true force of creative change and innovation. The second stage then entails an offline workshop where participants will be briefed on the goals of the project as well as the achievements of its predecessor. At this stage we will begin to see a flourishing discussion and exchange. The third stage, will in turn consist of online workshops involving participants and their respective mentors where they will fully dive into experimentation, co-creation and innovation. At last, the project will end in its fourth stage which will consist of a 9 day long exhibition in de Wasserij Rotterdam where each participant will have the opportunity to present their creation to an audience.
Meet the Team
In our recent project blog series we have made the point of crediting the bright minds behind CCD-NL’s projects and, in this sense, showcasing the human element of each project by crediting those who have worked tirelessly to make it a reality.
Lab for Ikat was initially devised by Julita Oetojo – a fashion designer, researcher, lecturer and senior advisor at CCD-NL. Her inspiring passion for the world of fashion and textiles as a whole has led her to develop functional, sustainable, and environmentally friendly textile concepts and designs that prioritize the use of natural materials. Alongside Julita are two Dutch-based designers – Gianni Antonia and Nikkie Wester. Nikkie is a Dutch future heritage specialist who has been a committed partner and collaborator of CCD-NL over the years. She is deeply passionate about textiles and weaving and has an endless thirst for knowledge in this field. In turn, Gianni is a communication designer and researcher who founded Cypherloom – a generative design atelier that seeks to explore the potential between fashion and digital technology. Both artists partook in the Binding with Ikat project and continue their involvement by collaborating with Julita and other Indonesian Ikat artisans. Together, they mentor the participants throughout their creative process while simultaneously engaging in it themselves.
Moreover, Lab for Ikat cannot come to fruition without the Indonesian Ikat artisans who are not only the source of inspiration for the project but also its primary beneficiaries. The Ikat artisans present will be Marsha Fattu – an Ikat artisan and designer from Rote-Ndao who designs a wide-variety of Ikat inspired garments, and Selviana Boi Dao – a seasoned Ikat artisan and founder of the Wehor Hadomi group. Indeed, if you have been following our recent publications you might recall these phenomenal women from our article about the ISWE project. In Lab for Ikat, Marsha will operate as a mentor and coordinator while Selviana will be mainly involved in the creation of new designs in collaboration with the other designers.
Last but certainly not least are the people orchestrating the project as a whole – that is, the project’s coordinator, Valentina Tabunscic, and the project leader, Yetty van der Made-Haning. Valentina is a seasoned international trade professional with a passion for social work and the cultural sector. She joined CCD-NL earlier this year and while her time at the foundation has been short, her impact has undoubtedly been felt. Bringing along a fierce combination of hard work, vision and creativity, Valentina’s contribution to this project is priceless. In turn, Yetty van der Made-Haning – CCD-NL’s very own founder and director – is the project’s leader. Not only does Yetty’s resume in academia and the international development sector speak for itself, but her relentless devotion to the foundation’s mission never ceases to impress. This will be proven once again through this project as she will be monitoring and assessing the project and its outcomes alongside other staff members.
Understanding The Project
You might have heard the saying that more important than what you do is why you do it. As with all projects at CCD-NL, the driving purpose behind this project is as clear as ever. Yet, this one stands out for the scale of its impact. Although the promotion and preservation of Ikat as well as the welfare of Ikat artisans is still very much at the project’s core, the reaping benefits of the project reach far beyond this. For a better understanding of why and how that is, let’s have a look at Lab for Ikat’s key themes and what they entail.
Ikat and Modernity
As contemporary anthropological work has sought to demonstrate in past decades, the notions of what we call tradition and modernity, respectively, are not opposed to one another. In other words, the symbols of modernity that we have grown accustomed to such as the fast spread of technological and scientific advancement can and, in fact, do already coexist with cultural symbols and traditions such as the ancient craft of Ikat, which will often be categorized as ‘something of the past’. In the fight for the preservation of Ikat, Lab for Ikat is challenging the outdated dichotomy between modernity and tradition. It does so by furthering its inclusion in the
modern world, through the creation of a space where designers, artisans and creators alike can experiment with modern tools and techniques that – when added to Ikat’s technical repertoire, can lead to something new and unique. The idea is that by continuously evolving this artform we can better ensure its longevity and preservation in the future. The involvement of the youth is a central element of this and key to the project’s success, for further bringing Ikat into modernity means allowing tomorrow’s players into the conversation of cultural preservation. Without them, it is a pointless endeavor.
Innovation, Co-Creation and Global Impact
Lab for Ikat is first and foremost a collaborative project in the most literal sense of the term – and this cannot be stressed enough for it is indeed a central aspect of the project. All that will be gained and achieved with this project will require all parties involved and will in turn be of benefit to every respective party. At Lab for Ikat, they will experiment with new materials (i.e. natural dyes), new designs and conceptual ideas that may venture beyond fashion. As mentioned, Ikat as a cultural and artistic form will only gain from this but so will the creatives and craftsmen involved. The participants in the Netherlands will be exposed to Ikat, its cultural and historical richness, the symbolism of its motifs, its ancient weaving techniques and more. Ikat artisans in Indonesia, on the other hand, will also be exposed to new technical knowledge related to design (e.g. how to translate one’s inspiration into a design), the use of eco-sustainable materials as well as detailed professional insights into the European market. As Julita mentions, it is useful to understand the nuances of different markets: in Europe for instance, softer colors tend to be
favored whereas in Indonesia, brighter colors are usually preferred. Similarly, the European market calls for more natural dyes while in the local Indonesian markets people have a tendency to buy more synthetic fabrics due to its greater affordability.
Fostering Cultural and Economic Development
In addition to promoting and preserving culture through intercultural cooperation, technical knowledge exchange, innovation and co-creation – there is yet another important outcome which makes for a key component of the project: that is, the economic stimulus it creates. Lab for Ikat is creating new market opportunities for Ikat craftsmen in Indonesia through exposure and product innovation taking place in the Netherlands, as well as new economic opportunities for the fashion and textile community in Rotterdam. The respective participants will have the platform to present their Ikat-inspired work, allowing them to profit from it in addition to leaving their mark in the Dutch textile industry through the creation of innovative and sustainable products. Aware of the challenges that today’s students and recent graduates face when it comes to employment opportunities, this is particularly relevant for the youth. As Valeria and Julita emphasize, it is important for an organization such as CCD-NL to create opportunities for today’s youth.
The Future Ahead
All in all, it would be fair to say that Lab for Ikat is a project that is bridging the past, the present and the future. Taking inspiration from the endangered Ikat tradition, incorporating modern-day tools and knowledge and bringing along tomorrow’s generation, is all meant to achieve this. When asked what she thought the future holds for Ikat, Julita responded: “I think Ikat has a very bright future. I see that people nowadays are more aware and appreciative of traditional products, knowledge and its preservation. With Ikat having such a rich background, I have no doubts that people will appreciate it. At the same time, I think it’s possible that you can make Ikat in a modern fashion so that it’s not behind on modern trends: it can also be trendy. Even fashion houses like Dior and Gucci are coming up with these ideas because, after all, trends are always something that comes back again and again, as they always take inspiration from what came before … and Ikat has been around for a while (laughs)”. This project is a reminder of how our past can lead us to a better and brighter future. All cultural heritage is ultimately a part of humanity’s patrimony in a way that all of us have a claim to it, while simultaneously having a duty to cherish and preserve it.
UKRAINE WAR: THE SITUATION AND THE ROLE OF CULTURE
Written: Can Ergan & Edited: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz
Wars have devastating consequences of all kinds. No matter the sides, causes, or weapons, every war leaves behind ruined cities, sorrowful mothers, and a society in need of rebuilding. The human factor and the safety of civilians should always be the first concern when it comes to “protection” in a conflict-ravaged area. But besides this, other things require protection as well. The values and cultures for which nations fight must also be preserved against the destructiveness of war.
Although the protection of cultural heritage seems to be an easy subject to forget in a possible war, international agreements are very clear and strict on this issue. According to Red Cross, cultural values and heritages are protected from the war in two ways. First, they are recognized as civilian property and should be treated that way. Second, under the 1954 Hague Convention, each state must ensure the security of its cultural elements. Movable items should be taken to safe places, and immovable things should not be used for military interests. Also, the sides of the armed conflict are not allowed to show direct aggression towards cultural property and must avoid incidental damage to them. Unfortunately, the realities of war often do not align with the conditions set by peacetime agreements.
It is possible to see examples of this reality in Ukraine today. As CCD-NL, we have been paying close attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as this tragic and shameful incident continues to unfold. Our deepest desire is to let the Ukrainian people know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in these grueling times. While the impact of our solidarity may be limited, we argue that it is our duty as human beings to continue to support Ukraine and its fight for freedom. Our foundation believes that the best way to help Ukraine for us is by doing what we do best as a foundation; telling the stories of cultures and their struggles. Thus, with this blog, you are invited to read about Ukraine’s cultural heritage during the war and then learn more about the weaving culture in Ukraine.
Cultural Elements: Their Situation and Role in the Ukraine War
Cultural elements and subjects have made a name for themselves in different topics since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called for the preservation of cultural elements in Ukraine at the beginning of the war, not only for the past to be remembered but also for united and strong future generations after the war. Following the call of the Director-General, Ukraine has rushed to protect its cultural heritages in the first days of the invasion. According to DW, Ukrainian cultural workers did their best to transfer movable cultural pieces to safety and worked hard to shelter the immovable items.
However, The UNESCO report on Ukraine’s cultural properties published on April 21 reports that despite the efforts of volunteers and employees to preserve thousands of cultural monuments, 102 cultural objects and sites have been damaged or destroyed.
Against this destructiveness of the war, many of the physical cultural elements continue to be preserved by the endless efforts of the Ukrainians. Moreover, other cultural features also play an essential role in the resistance.
UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries said that “Culture is the third front in the Ukraine war.” We believe this is true. Just as you protect the physical borders of your country, you must preserve its culture; otherwise, the shared consciousness and identity of the people living within those borders will be damaged. Many artists and artisans are already aware of this fact. Thus, the Ukrainian artists of all branches have been using their art and culture since the invasion began to convey their first-hand war experiences. Some, like musician Timur Dzhafarov, write songs about their experiences at the front to be published when the war is over, while others like Zhenya Oliinyk use their strong pen they used to write novels and stories before to publish news from Ukraine in war times. Those who wish to learn more about these brave artists can read Jakub Knera’s article here. Just as these artists use what they are best at – their art and culture – to send a message to the world, we would like to do what we are good at to support Ukraine; introducing and promoting cultures.
With their red tones embroidered on white, it is easy to identify which patterns are generally preferred in weavings. Most artisans use patterns that resemble an octopus, flower, monastery, pine tree, or bird. According to Batyrieva, artisans use these motifs to touch on different themes in their works. For example, most of the crafts include a “flower of life” in the middle. On the other hand, weavings that have been made for weddings symbolize ‘binding’ with different motives. A technique called “as the parks” being the rarest, Krolevets weaving can be woven by using five other techniques.
In 1922 a group of home-working weavers using these five different techniques established an enterprise to maximize their production. By the 70s, their exports reached 50 different countries. However, the beginning of the 2000s witnessed rough times as the enterprise went bankrupt. Fortunately, artisans and entrepreneurs were keen on preserving the cultural heritage of the Krolevets weaving. Thus, in 2011 they opened a museum and hosted a festival and a forum for weavers. Thanks to these endless efforts, in 2018, Krolevets weaving was included in the National List of Elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ukraine to preserve its traditions.
It is difficult to predict the precise effects of the war in the Krolevets region. Although Krolevets is in east Ukraine, close to the Russian border, various news sources indicate that it is not yet occupied. In addition, the Krolevets weaving museum is not on the UNESCO list of damaged cultural sites. Even though this is small news, it is nevertheless encouraging.
In addition, the efforts of people from all branches of Ukrainian art and culture for their country are worth mentioning. In line with this effort, we at CCD-NL wanted to give our supporters something different about Ukraine that they could connect with. For the last time, we would like to state that in such a devastating war environment, the essential thing in human life, and we support diplomatic solutions, not weapons, in any international conflict.
If you wish to help but are not sure how to, go right ahead and access the support channels shared by the Ukrainian Embassy in the Kingdom of the Netherlands here.
Ukrainian Weaving: Krolevets Weaving
The story of the weaving in Ukraine is somewhat different from the stories of other cultures. Unlike its counterparts like Ikat, a unique style of Ukrainian weaving, named Krolevets hand-weaving, has a shorter and more traceable history. However, this feature does not mean that Ukrainian weaving lacks richness.
Krolevets weaving, which emerged around 1765, reached its peak popularity in the 19th century thanks to the textile fairs that artisans started to attend. With increasing popularity and demand, Krolevets weaving has become an indispensable piece for weddings in some areas of Ukraine. Later, pioneered by Ivan Ryndia, a couple of traders imported Krolevet weaving to different countries, even as far as the United States and Japan.
Textiles across Borders: The Wax Print
Written: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz & Edited: Can Ergan
The further one delves into any given culture the more one comes to learn about the heterogeneity and interconnectedness that ties all cultural heritage together. Whether it is tangible or intangible and regardless of which part of the globe it finds itself in, all of culture as we know it has been influenced, shaped and molded by a variety of different actors from different parts of the world. The fact that one’s cultural heritage is so easily a point of contention or conflict between different groups and entities – whether religious, ethnic, local, national or international – should only point to the very heterogeneity that creates such heritage. In this article, we will be looking at a particular cultural artefact which embodies this in the most literal sense: the Wax Print. Known in English by many names including the “African Wax Print”, the “Dutch Print” or simply the Wax print, they all refer to a type of fabric which has been popularized in the African continent but whose roots stem from all around the world. It’s rich, heterogeneous origins which many do not know about have led to controversies in the fashion industry as well as in academic circles who have questioned its authenticity and the perceived colonial inheritance it represents. In line with CCD-NL’s focus on textile cultures, and following up on the thematic series initiated with our previous article “Nodes that Beat Weapons: Traditional Guatemalan Weaving”, this article hence seeks to shed light on another rich textile tradition whereby we wish to showcase its uniqueness and peculiarities. By zooming in on the fascinating Wax Print, we hope to broaden our perspectives on different textile traditions which may lead to useful insights about other traditions when juxtaposed with one another.
A Quick and Fun History Lesson
Although it is commonly referred to as ‘the African Wax print’, this fabric did not actually originate in Africa. The story of the African Wax Print fabric – from here onwards referred to simply as the Wax print, actually began in what is now Indonesia. In 19th century Java, as the British and the Dutch sought colonial control of the islands, the British began to document the Batik production process whereby “hot wax was passed through a tube to draw designs on to fabric which was dyed and then re-waxed and dyed again for up to 17 days”. The Batiks – a popularly worn cloth in Indonesia with a tremendously rich history of its own, was traditionally hand-made and its production costs were reportedly high. With the aim of undercutting such costs and producing it on a mass scale, European entrepreneurs – namely the Dutch and the British – began competing to achieve this task although it was the Dutch who succeeded first. A name worth remembering here is that of Dutchman Pieter Van Vlissigen who founded the textile company Vlisco in 1846. Vlisco were the first to introduce the wax print fabrics in West Africa and remain a leading player in the industry until this day. They managed to produce the first machine-made Batiks, however, they were unpopular amongst the Javanese as well as in the Dutch East Indies, to where they were later exported. Many years later, these machine-made Batiks had their first introduction in West Africa, in what was then known as the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), where at last they were well received. It has been noted that female West-African merchants played a particularly crucial role in this as they not only traded these clots but retrieved vital market and design information. As mentioned by anthropologist Anne Grosfilley in Spencer’s article ‘Wax print: Africa’s pride or colonial legacy’, these Batik-inspired fabrics were very popular locally as their material was light and easier to sew than the thicker, locally woven material, and it had some similarities with the local tie-dye designs (Spencer, 2020) . From there onwards, manufacturers increasingly began to tailor their designs so as to suit the tastes and preferences of their consumers in West and Central Africa.
In the present day, it is fair to say that the Wax Print – otherwise known across Africa as pagne, kikwembe, ankara, gitenge and many other names – has acquired an African identity insofar as it is embedded in many cultures in West and Central Africa where it is immensely popular. As Kamara brilliantly puts it, it was in Africa that the Wax print gained “a life of its own”. From Ghana, to Ivory Coast, to Cameroon and so many other countries, the wax print holds an important place in the social and cultural spheres of many Africans. Most designs and/or motifs have a deeper significance to them as they will often tell a story, express a certain belief, pay homage to a given historical moment, or communicate something of relevance to the wearer. What is interesting here is that, as Spencer has found in the case of wax prints in Ghana, wax print wearers and producers alike attribute different meanings to their designs. For example, the ‘house of marbles’ design is known as efie aboseaa (aka gravel) by some Ghanaians for it represents “the small stones people would keep outside their houses” yet, according to Vlisco, the paving stones represent a metaphor for “how one’s immediate family can give the most pain”. The case of Ghana is particularly interesting to look at, for it represents the breeding ground for the fabric’s presence in the continent, becoming embedded in Ghanaians’ cultural and social realities. This is so much the case that the national government has had a campaign since 2004, calling for a national dress day on Fridays where people are encouraged to wear the famous prints as they see fit. Another example of the wax print being pushed as an item of pride and identity is how it has been increasingly showcased by fashion designers in fashion shows, such as Ghanaian brand Lapokela’s collection in 2019.
According to 2016 statistics, the wax print market is considerably profitable in Sub-Saharan Africa – with West Africa making up the largest share of consumers – accounting for annual sales of $2.1 billion yards with an average profit margin of $1.4 billion. Playing alongside the European manufacturers, who still hold a monopoly in the manufacturing of wax print fabrics, there are new players competing for their place in the market and who are in fact changing it as a result. In addition to the Dutch brand Vlisco – who essentially originated the product, there are also African and Chinese brands who currently produce and sell Wax Prints fabrics – with Chinese producers reportedly accounting for about half of all production output. However, what is important to note here is that all the major African-based brands such as Uniwax (based in the Ivory Coast) as well as Woodin and GTP (both based in Ghana) are actually owned by the Vlisco group – owners of the Dutch-based Vlisco. This being said, the real competition exists only between the European owned brands and Chinese brands such as Hitarget. Chinese brands are known for selling cheaper fabrics than other brands but also for having inferior quality. To give an example of what you might find in the Ghanaian market, for example, a six-yards fabric from Vlisco would cost around 530 Ghanaian cedis (around 67€) whereas the same amount of fabric from Hitarget would cost 55 cedis (around 7€).
This being said, while this is the case for mass-scale manufacturers: where does that leave local artisans, weavers and small-scale producers? Similarly to the case of Ikat artisans in Indonesia, local weavers in Sub-Saharan Africa who resort to handmade production are generally more expensive and are left at a disadvantage as they cannot compete with foreign imports. Besides, they are outnumbered as they represent only a very small share of wax print manufacturers.
Authenticity, Colonial Legacy and the Way Forward
When it comes to the wax print, common themes that arise across the literature that exists about it is the question of authenticity of the print as well as the colonial implications it entails in the eyes of some. It is also worth noting that these two notions are very much intertwined. As Kamara describes, the question of authenticity usually arises when discussing the quality of a wax print fabric – for Chinese prints which tend to be of lower quality are seen as “less authentic” – as well as who produces it, for European-owned brands appear to “bear the hallmark of authenticity”. In line with the critical view that we are seeking, this author takes a step further and questions what in fact qualifies the wax print as authentic. After all, who decides this? What is the criteria? This leads us to the question of “Africanness”, to which the question of authenticity inevitably relates to. Given its intrinsic association with African culture, when we question the authenticity of the wax print we are essentially questioning whether or not it is truly African. What exactly, then, makes this fabric authentic? Does it have to do with whether it is produced and sold in Africa, by Africans themselves? If so, as we have seen, the wax print is then unauthentic. Despite wax print wearers being African in their vast majority, the actors on the producing end of this industry are almost exclusively foreign, and their contact with African and their respective cultures is strictly a commercial one. Tied to this is then what certain members of the fashion industry see as a legacy of colonialism. This idea is shared by Ghanaian designer Nana Adusei who refuses to use wax prints for his brands collection for this very same reason. On the other side of the spectrum, there are others who see the wax print as something which is and will always be a part of Africa. Indeed, it can be argued that this legacy exists not only as a result of its history but also in terms of power imbalances visible in the global political economy which translates to the wax print industry.
Needless it is to say that this makes for an extensive debate, in which we do not aim to delve into. We can, however, add some nuance to the discussion. For instance, despite the origins of the wax print being widely documented, we should consider that this fabric is what it is today because of its cosmopolitan past. Starting off as a copy of Indonesian batik’s enterprised by Dutch merchants, the wax print as we know it today only became distinctively itself only once it arrived in the African continent and was embraced by Africans. As Amma Aboagye – the founder of Wax Fest Print where Ghanaian fashionistas have gathered to discuss the legitimacy of the wax print’s African identity – concludes: their Africaness cannot be denied, despite their origins. Besides, should we perhaps question how helpful or useful such a discussion is for the reality of wax print wearers and local weavers? Without neglecting the sense of pride and identity that people derive from cultural heritage, the reality is that the wax print is and has for centuries been a part of the social, cultural and economic sphere of many Sub-Saharan Africans. A more constructive way forward might instead be to challenge the economic power imbalances and consider ways in which local agents (i.e. local weavers, fashion designers and other relevant stakeholders) can be empowered in a way that they too can benefit from this profitable industry which thrives in Sub-Saharan Africa.
On a final note, by reflecting on how this tradition contrasts with that of other textiles traditions – namely Ikat, we find that there are clearly differences but, nevertheless, there are similarities as well. Perhaps the most striking difference is the fact that the wax print is not at risk of vanishing as is Ikat. Due to the massive market it has, and large production scale it entails, there is no reason to think the production of the wax print will disappear anytime soon. On the other hand, something these traditions have in common is the fact that – ultimately, it is small scale artisans who are at a loss for their inability to complete with mass-producers. This should remind us that – in a world where profit margins are prioritized over sustainability and authenticity, the task of protecting and empowering localized artisans – which is at the essence of CCD-NLs work of with Ikat – is one to be promoted and cherished.
Adamu, Zaina. “The Complex Future of African Fabric (Which Isn’t African).” CNN. Cable News Network, August 14, 2018. https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/african-textiles-dutch-future/index.html.
Aibueku, Uyi. “In Textile Industry, a Hidden Goldmine.” The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News, February 15, 2016. https://guardian.ng/features/youthspeak/in-textile-industry-a-hidden-goldmine/.
“The Founding of Vlisco: Vlisco History.” Vlisco. Accessed April 27, 2022. https://www.vlisco.com/heritage/the-founding-of-vlisco/.
HERSEY, Frank. “Putting the ‘African’ Back in West African Wax Print Fabrics.” France 24. France 24, June 4, 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20190603-africa-wax-print-fabric-textile-pagne-ivory-coast-chinese.
Howard, E. K., G.D. Sarpong, and A.M. Amankwah. “Symbolic Significance Of African Prints: A Dying Phenomenon In Contemporary Print Designs In Ghana.” International Journal of Innovative Research & Development 1, no. 11 (December 2012): 609–24.
Kamara, Diana. “Fake Wax.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 33, no. 3 (2021): 364–69. https://doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2020.1869534.
Schüller-Zwierlein, André. “Why Preserve? an Analysis of Preservation Discourses.” Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture 44, no. 3 (2015): 98–122. https://doi.org/10.1515/pdtc-2015-0020.
Spencer, Clare. “Wax Print: Africa’s Pride or Colonial Legacy? .” BBC News. BBC, 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/4fq4hrgxvn/wax-print.
Connecting Countries and Fields: the Pan European Project
Written: Can Ergan
Edited: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz
We welcome you to the second issue of the blog series that we started with the Ikat for Sustainability and Women Empowerment (ISWE) Project, where we want to show you that projects are more than proposals written on paper and that we should recognize the efforts of the people working on projects on a volunteer basis.
On this issue, we, as the writing team, had the chance to interview Nelia, the coordinator of the Pan European Project (European Solidarity Project). Based on the project documents, materials and our delightful conversation with Nelia, in this blog, we will take a look at how one of the CCD-NL’s most complex projects, the Pan-European Project, came about and what it aims for, what challenges it face and what has been accomplished.
Where It All Started: Binding with Ikat
As our longtime supporters may recall, the two-phase project ‘Binding with Ikat’ was completed in the recent past. As a pilot project, Binding with Ikat aimed to revive and strengthen Ikat by creating a cooperative scene between Dutch designers and artisans from the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) region. Fortunately, the project turned out to be an extremely lively and successful venture where workshops, fashion shows and seminars were held, and even a documentary about Ikat was shot. Although she was not a part of the CCD-NL family at the time, Nelia says that when she joined the team, she realized that Binding with Ikat successfully brought designers and artisans together, and the project had successfully raised the interest of the public towards the foundation. Furthermore, following this positive outcome, the CCD-NL team discovered a cultural connection ‘gap’ between the Netherlands and Indonesia, which people were interested in and enjoyed exploring. Thus, all conditions were met based on these results to raise the bar and expand the project’s scope.
Pan European Project
The Pan-European Project pursues a broader vision while continuing the ambitions of Binding with Ikat. At this stage, Nelia joined the CCD-NL team to replace the previous project coordinator. Our new coordinator, who previously had the opportunity to work at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that she chose CCD-NL because she wanted to create something tangible while working on traditional crafts and experience the environment in an NGO.
Our previous research has shown that Ikat had already reached Europe through the trade routes between Asia and Europe in the past and established a place in the French, Italian and Spanish cultures. However, with the devastating effects of both World Wars, Ikat started to face the risk of disappearing from Europe. Under the leadership of Nelia, who joined our team after this result, the project aimed to strengthen traditional crafts in Europe by combining the aforementioned historical conditions and some difficulties created by the pandemic. While organizing exhibitions, workshops and discussions like its predecessor, the Pan European Project also aims to integrate Ikat into dementia treatment with the initiative of Art for Health. Although this target may seem complex, it will play a significant role in forming Ikat awareness in different European countries and various professional fields.
What is Art for Health Initiative?
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, Nelia also points out that the initiative, the first of many Pan-European Project initiatives that are expected to be introduced in the future, is related to the idea of reinventing Ikat.
Based on this idea, dementia treatment is a suitable basis for achieving this. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, the number of people with dementia in Europe will double, affecting around 20 million people. In addition, while some studies predict that permanent damage to the brains of severe Covid-19 survivors could lead to early dementia, they also claim that the quarantine conditions created by Covid-19 drive today’s dementia patients towards loneliness. Therefore, Ikat seems particularly appropriate as a supportive therapy, judging from a UK-based study that suggested that arts and crafting, when modified for specific needs, could be used to treat a variety of health problems (Meyrick, 2000). Building on this idea, our Art for Health initiative under the Pan-European Project connects Ikat, health and design experts from around the world to create and produce an Ikat based rich sensory experience for dementia patients. By doing so, CCD-NL believes that a culture of care between the elderly living with dementia and the young designers and health practitioners would be established. However, even though this project is meant to benefit the public and offers a solution to a severe problem, it encounters difficulties on the way, like every project.
Difficulties on the Way
At the end of our interview as the writing team, we, without a doubt, realized that Nelia’s endless efforts and ideas kept the Pan-European Project alive for the last five months. However, the project also had some difficult times, mainly because of the pandemic, and Nelia often had to handle the details alone in this complex setting.
The first and foremost problem is the lack of sufficient resources to finance the project, which needs these reliable funding to unite many different people and sectors under one goal. In addition, pandemic conditions have made international travel and face-to-face work difficult from the very beginning. It should also be noted here that the approach of every country to Covid-19 is not the same as in Europe. Especially in some Asian countries, it can be seen that there are still stringent rules. Because of these unfavorable conditions, the project faced mobility and interpersonal communication disruptions. Last but not least, we are aware of the delay involving the sharing of some good or bad news about the project with you. However, as CCD-NL, we have made many concrete developments as time passed.
Towards a Stronger Pan European Project
First of all, our teams have grown even more prominent in the last few months as we welcome new interns for our social media, design, writing and management teams. In other words, we will try to keep your interest in our projects at the same level as the first day by updating you instantly from various channels on every development related to CCD-NL. Secondly, Nelia’s will and unrelenting ambition about the project is now supported by a colleague, Felice. She will be focusing on funding the Pan European Project and assisting Nelia when needed. Lastly, as some of our supporters may know, we have been working with experts and designers from the beginning of the Art for Health Initiative, and we are also actively connecting with the new ones:
Lena Winterink joins us as a designer. Graduated Cum Laude from the Design Academy Eindhoven. With her designs, images and materials, she aims to inspire people to think and reflect differently upon our daily habits and environment.
Szonja Daniel is the second designer on board. Graduated from the KASK School of Arts in Gent. Szonja wants to be more involved in weaving and mixing textile techniques to create unique artworks and designs that bring joy to people’s lives.
Mark van Gross holds a vital role as a graphic designer in our team. He also shares his marketing, print design, and visual art expertise with us.
Dr Lola Shamukhitdinova is with us as an Ikat expert. We believe she will add a lot to our project with her studies on textile and sustainability for years.
Julita Oetojo will honour us as an Ikat expert as well. Currently a PhD candidate and a lecturer at the University of Bonn, her research is focused on Indonesian Textile, art history and design. We want to thank her for her contributions to every issue, as she has taken an active role in our foundation for a long time.
Lauren Davies will join us as an Expert and a Designer, combining the two roles. Founder & Director of a sensory design company called HEKA, she will share her valuable experience with us on various aspects.
How can You Support the Pan European Project?
It is our hope that you have been satisfied with what you have heard about the Pan European Project after a long time. Our supporters’ opinions, ideas, and contributions to the projects are precious to us. We will be more than happy to hear your views and questions. Please feel free to contact us from the following e-mail address: email@example.com
Meantime, suppose you’d like to support the project that we covered in this blog and any of our other projects. In that case, we’d be happy to see your contribution to crowdfunding, which we’ll be launching soon.
To stay up to date, please follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter!
Presenting: Ikat for Sustainability and Women Empowerment
Written: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz
Edited: Can Ergan
After such a long hiatus, writing a piece that would revive our lost momentum was not particularly easy. For this reason, this article – our first since 2019 – will uncover some of CCD-NL’s most promising work since our last post: the ISWE project. The ISWE (Ikat for Sustainability and Women Empowerment) project was first launched in 2021 under the title Training for Trainers and is currently being run by Ridha Sri Wianti – the bright and ambitious mind behind it all . We, the writing team, had the opportunity to talk to Ridha in order to gain a deeper and more personal insight into a project which we believe deserves more recognition. As such, this article will provide a brief and general overview of the ISWE project as well as uncover the inspiration, purpose and vision that drives it.
Where It All Started
Ridha first joined CCD-NL as part of the fundraising team. Over time, however, she became increasingly invested in the stories of the Ikat artisans with whom the foundation works. By talking to different Ikat weaving groups – and especially, a group of young female artisans in NTT (i.e. Ina Manenu) – she began to have a clearer understanding of what their wants and their needs were. She noticed, for instance, that many artisans were in fact quite aware of the harmful consequences of Ikat weaving practices that relied heavily on artificial dyes. However, what they lacked was the knowledge that would enable them to break away from such practices. Similarly, it caught her attention that these women struggled to make their products marketable. In other words, while they used their Ikat expertise to produce cloths, they would seldom transform these cloths into other, more marketable items such as clothing garments – which, from a marketing perspective, can be more easily sold.
What is important to understand here is that many of these artisans’ livelihoods depend on Ikat, which makes their inability to translate their inherited expertise into a sustainable stream of income, particularly problematic. Moreover, this – in combination with other factors such as the generational knowledge gap and environmental degradation, contributes to the endangerment of a precious cultural tradition that is already on the brink of extinction. By getting to understand the specific struggles that these artisans face, Ridha identified the need for what is now the ISWE project.
The ISWE project was initially launched as a trial project under the title Training for Trainers earlier in July 2021 and lasted until August of the same year. Being a pilot project, it was relatively small in terms of its scale and focused primarily on providing training for the production of natural dyes – namely, brown, black and red dyes, all of which were fairly new skills for the participants. The said participants included female Ikat artisans from the Ina Manenu group as well as trainers from the Wehor Hadomi group. All in all, the feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive with participants reporting a pleasant and fruitful experience where they acquired new knowledge and skills. Perhaps the best part was the fact that these artisans were able to share this knowledge with their peers – an essential step towards preserving Ikat in the long-run, says Ridha.
Since then, what was initially the Training for Trainers project has now grown into the much more evolved ISWE project. Aimed at addressing the aforementioned challenges, the project – as it currently stands – comprises a multi-faceted training program consisting of 3 main focal points: 1. Natural Ikat production, 2. Entrepreneurial skills and 3. Ikat textiles upcycling. In line with its ambitions as well as its significant complexity, the project is heavily based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework – particularly, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, and Sustainable Cities and Communities. With the cooperation of an extended network of local and foreign partners, it ultimately seeks to achieve the sustainability of Ikat production both in socio-economic and environmental terms. Once achieved, this will ensure the preservation of the Ikat tradition as threatened cultural heritage – which, as you probably know by now, is at the very core of CCD-NL’s mission.
So, What Exactly Will Be Done … and How?
As the previously mentioned focal points of the ISWE training program are fairly broad, each one of these consist in turn of further practical skills training which fall under the umbrella of these larger themes. Regarding Natural Ikat production, for instance, this will entail training sessions focused on how to produce natural dyes, particularly those which artisans do not yet know how to produce. Furthermore, Entrepreneurial skills entails training sessions focused on e-commerce training whereby artisans learn to promote their products online as well as to make tailored designs that are more marketable to broader markets. At last, Ikat textiles upcycling consists of training focused on the creative reuse of waste created by Ikat production.
This training is set to empower female Ikat artisans through entrepreneurial training that shall revive the Ikat industry and consequently improve these artisans’ livelihoods. In turn, training targeted at raising environmental awareness, fostering discussion, knowledge-sharing, creative problem-solving and the adoption of eco-friendly Ikat practices, will ultimately contribute to its longevity and the preservation of its unique qualities that rely on natural production practices.
Moreover, key to the question of how this will be achieved are the stakeholders involved in the project – both locally and internationally. In addition to the great efforts made by Ridha and CCD-NL as a whole, it is through the cooperation and partnership of these various stakeholders that this training program is made possible. Here’s an overlook of the key stakeholders involved and their respective roles:
- Ina Manenu – a NNT-based Ikat artisan group led by Marsha Fattu, a young fashion designer from Rote-Ndao. The group consists of 6 artisans.
- Wehor Hadomi – an Ikat artisan group, led by Selviana Boi Dao – a master weaver from Belu. This group has been an active partner of CCD-NL since 2019 and it has 4 members.
- Gunung Mako Weaving Cooperative (GMWC) – another Ikat artisan group, led by Syariat Tole – an experienced weaver and dye expert from Alor. Syariat was raised with the Ikat tradition having weaved since the age of 7. There are 20 artisans in her group.
As a community-based project, having the approval and the cooperation of these locally-based groups is crucial for the purposes of monitoring results on the ground. In addition to these partners, however, CCD-NL has also sought the partnership of Dutch designers and other international partners with expertise in a variety of fields. These partnerships are perhaps equally important to achieving the project’s objectives since one of its aims is to build partnerships with countries and entities in the global north as well as in the global south, whereby CCD-NL acts as the bridge between them.
As a project that essentially came to life through its creator’s sheer desire to make a real impact, all evidence suggests that the ISWE will only continue to evolve and expand in a way that more women and artisans will continue to benefit from. As she explained how the initial pilot project came to be, and how her desire to see it materialize was her main motivation, Ridha’s drive as the leader of the ISWE project seems to be far from gone. When asked what she expects to achieve with the project, she answered: “Most of all, I just want to see this project be realized. I want to see these women thrive, to see their lives improve. I want for them to be financially independent and I want for them to share the skills and knowledge they acquired with as many other artisans as possible”. Despite the challenges the project faces – which any project inevitably does – Ridha seems certain of ISWE’s potential and, given the commendable work she has done as a member of the CCD-NL team, there is little reason to doubt her.
Nodes that Beat Weapons: Traditional Guatemalan Weaving
Written By: Can Ergan
Edited by: Afonso Ivens-Ferraz
Although the motifs, patterns, techniques, and materials differ, the art of weaving is one of the oldest elements of the common world heritage. Scientists think that the need for dressing caused by climatic conditions has turned into weaving with the discovery of new raw materials and developing technology. Carbonized archaeological finds discovered in present-day Turkey show that human beings were engaged in the art of weaving in the Neolithic period, about 8,000 years ago.
In the thousands of years since then, the art of weaving, which different historical events and cultures have influenced in various geographies, has been divided into many different variations today. In CCD-NL, with your kind support, we are constantly working to preserve and evolve this international culture. Although our work is currently focused on Indonesian Ikat and Japanese Kurume Kasuri, it is possible to come across different weaving cultures in every world region. This blog post invites you to explore the exciting story behind Guatemalan weavings.
Traditional Guatemalan Weaving
In ancient Mayan culture, it is believed that Ixchel, the goddess of midwifery and medicine, gave the art of weaving to her people. It is also an essential part of the same culture that every woman should learn the art of weaving, regardless of their position in society. Today, in the highlands of Guatemala, several women artisan communities use the nearly 1500 years old techniques of back-strap and pedal loom weaving and embroidery to craft their art. The main result is a blouse called a huipil, rich in patterns and produced in various colors. Besides the beauty and originality of the resulting product, huipils have another purpose; they demonstrate wealth, status, and a sense of belonging. This feature lies in the heart of our story.
Guatemalan Civil War & Maya Genocide
Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala experienced a series of tragic events. Following a failed military revolt against the Guatemalan president at that time, the country witnessed a series of fighting and military coups. By the 1970s, the oppressive situation in the country had reached a level that local people could not tolerate. Therefore Indigenous people and locals started to show resistance against the government and the military.
To re-establish its authority, the military-led government used effective yet terrible methods. The controlling powers eliminated everyone they saw as enemies, from the political, social, and intellectual classes to the local population. Human Rights Watch defined these serious crimes as genocide in which an estimated 200,000 local people, mostly Mayans, lost their lives. Sadly, once created by Mayan artisans to demonstrate wealth and belonging, huipils were used by government forces to identify Mayan locals. According to Menjívar, 400 different Mayan communities were seriously damaged, tortured, or killed. The remaining individuals were forced to flee the country.
After 36 years of violence and misery, the sides signed a peace accord in 1996. As the government’s and NGOs’ focus shifted towards recovery, the aftermath of the civil war was devastating. Most Mayan women and children were widowed and orphaned due to military violence, and they were dependent on basic needs. Therefore, some NGOs quickly got into the business of meeting the basic needs, while others began to create long-term development plans. Concerned that a “western” model would not fit the needs of the locals, professionals promoted weaving in damaged regions. Thanks to the low costs in establishing and sustaining the projects and Mayan women’s already established skills, the popularity of weaving campaigns increased rapidly. Soon, a project to create economic activity and independence for Mayan women in a country ravaged by civil war developed into a whole new level of success when tourism started to show interest in huipil and other weaving products.
Today, Guatemalan artisans’ primary income source is weaving. Tourists all over the globe are easily attracted by the colorful patterns of huipil and other Mayan products. However, traditional artisans are facing a new threat now. Since they cannot catch up with the high demands, they lose popularity over mass-produced products. Nevertheless, traditional artisans, united in associations established to deal with this problem, continue to work to preserve their culture and pass it on to the next generations. Our team believes that Guatemalan women, who survived a war that made their values into a weapon against them and built success stories for themselves from scratch, can also solve this problem.
Weaving Process & Techniques in Atambua by Siombo (2019): An Overview
Summarized and edited by Natasha Rebecca
The process of weaving begins in the preparation of the threads that are going to be used. To do so, weavers spin cotton using a traditional tool because they do not use conventional threads from the market. This time-consuming process can even take up to a couple of months. Cotton is taken directly from its source, the tree. The results from the spinning are usually irregular in shape and aren’t smooth, creating the asymmetrical pattern on the tenun. This imperfection is what makes each tenun unique, separating it from factory-produced products.
According to Siombo, after the spinning process, next comes the coloring process. The observation she did in Atambua, NTT showed that coloring doesn’t always happen when the material is still in its thread form, however, it is mostly done before the actual weaving process. Natural materials are used as sources of dye. For instance, “Ru Dao” leaves are for indigo, “Ka’bo” tree roots for red, turmeric, or “Menkude / Mengkudu” leaves or turmeric for yellow. Due to different types of geographical areas in East Nusa Tenggara, the type of plants available varies. An example of this are the teak leaves (Figure 1) used to make red dye in Rote-Ndao while in Belu, the root of the “Noni” tree is used. This is another time-consuming process that could take weeks because the process of coloring often needs repetition in order to create the colors desired (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Red dye made by teak leaves from Rote-Ndao .
Figure 1: Rote-Ndao artisans creating dyes with leaves.
Next, weavers of Atambua need to create patterns using their imagination by tying the threads. This is of course not always the case as other artisans will follow what they have been taught, their inherent motifs and patterns. For some, they used their imagination if they want to create a new motif. Once the dyes are fully absorbed and dried, the threads then are put on the traditional weaving tool that is called “Lana Her’u” by the locals of NTT. What is unique about NTT’s weaving compared to weaving from other parts of Indonesia is, instead of tying weft threads onto the machine, they tie warp threads instead. Hence, the weft thread is inserted horizontally into the warp thread that is already tied onto the machine vertically. This is a tiring process because of the traditional methodology, and all of this combined is what makes Tenun Ikat NTT unique, exquisite, and expensive.
Simbio conducted an ethnography to learn about the ways of weaving in NTT, aiming to learn how they practice it sustainably, and how to keep it that way in the future. As reported by Simobo, generally within NTT, weaving ikat is mainly separated into two types: Flores and Timor. Within Flores, there are differences amongst ikat Sumba and ikat Maumere. While for Timor, there is ikat Atambua in the Belu Regency. Other notable distinctions CCD-NL would like to mention are Ikat from Rote-Ndao, Alor, and Sawu.The weavers’ communities in NTT are tight-knit, usually grouped with their own clan or neighborhood. Weavers are mostly made up of housewives who gather and weave together after they finish their housework for the day, such as cleaning, cooking, and dropping off the children to school. This weaving culture is an extension of the bigger tradition and culture within NTT citizens on how to live as a community. Anthropologist Koentjaraningrat once stated the four characteristics of a community:
1. There are interactions between families
2. There is a tradition, norms, and rules that govern people’s behavior
3. There is a continuity in time
4. There is a strong feeling of identification that unites the members.
Furthermore, these four characteristics are also believed to serve as protection from disasters both physically and spiritually. Hence, this belief also reflects the close connection that the people of NTT have with nature and their surroundings, and are shown through weaving as well.
This author concluded in their research that in order to maintain the sustainability of the culture, the practice, and nature, the law must come into play. As industrialization, urbanization, and modernization will influence tradition and culture, it is crucial for local knowledge and culture to not be lost. Law could be one of the most effective tools in ensuring that the culture will be preserved, as the law could give order and enforce certain behaviors on the people so that the environment and its resources would be sustainable.
Materials and Tools
Before the dyeing process, the threads that will be used in a single piece of tenun fabric will be tied (ikat) according to the desired pattern, hence, the name ikat weaving. The patterns themselves and how they come to all depend on the individual weavers, there are no pre-designed patterns or sketches, part of their process is to create whatever they picture in their heads at that moment. This would be the first tenun step.
Fabrics from weaving Ikat from Flores and Timor are known for their earthy, darker colors such as black, brown, maroon, and dark blue, without very many variations. This is a result of dyes originating from vegetations, like noni and turmeric that are used to color the fabric. Furthermore, this natural process is also environmentally friendly, especially since they use just enough materials from natural resources, without taking more than what is needed. Therefore, Ikat fabrics originally are naturally dyed.
For the dyeing process itself, threads that are going to be used will be tied so that areas in which the threads are tied will not be dyed as well (remain their original color). Here is another example of why tenun ikat is very unique in which the weaver’s imagination begins the moment they start tying the threads to shape the pattern according to the colors as well. Generally, weavers would dye along the riverside. Again, due to the natural dye, it is not damaging for them to wash their waste in the river and natural dyes are also less likely to wear off.
After the dyeing process, the threads will then be arranged in the weaving tool. This arranging process is important to create a pattern that was determined in the prior process. Once arranged, the weaver would sit down with feet on the pedal, and slowly pull (using their legs) the threads to form the final fabric (Figure 3). In order to flatten the threads, they also use a plank or piece of wood to tighten the threads together, holding them in place better. The wood must be slippery with wax material taken from a type of tree used to make candles.
Figure 3. Selviana Boi Dao, an artisan from Belu Regency
To summarize, the step by step process:
1. Prepare the ingredients according to whichever color is desired. To attain yellow, use turmeric, candlenut, and oranges; for brown, use noni; for black, use repeatedly cooked forest nuts, or taum leaves.
2. To create the black dye, the ingredients are then put into boiling water. Once the color of the water turns into the desired color, the threads will be put inside as well.
3. Repeatedly dip the threads in wet soil.
4. Wash the thread. Steps 2 and 3 should be repeated depending on how thick/ dark you want the color to be. This process must also be done repeatedly to ensure that the desired color is attained.
5. The colored threads will then be dried in the sun.
6. The ready-to-use threads will then be rolled around a piece of wood which will then be put into the weaving equipment / tool.
The CCD-NL Ikat Platform: Uniting and Empowering Ikat artisans
By Marija Nikolić
The Center for Culture and Development The Netherlands was founded in 2017 with the specific aim of preserving cultural heritage for sustainable development. The pilot project of the organization is focused on preserving the weaving tradition of Ikat and helping the artisans who are keeping it alive. In fact, from the very beginning of CCD-NL, one of the main goals was to empower artisans by giving them a legal and economic platform which they can benefit from. In order to accomplish this goal, CCD-NL worked directly with artisans in the Netherlands and Indonesia through the Binding with Ikat project. The first phase of the project was successful, but unfortunately, phase two was postponed due to the onset of the pandemic. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis drastically changed the circumstances for many artisans and their entire communities, as Ikat artisans were struggling to make a living from their craft more than ever before.
It therefore became clear that there was a need for an online platform to unite artisans from different backgrounds and geographical locations. Because of this, CCD-NL launched the Binding with Ikat Platform (#ccdnlikatplatform). The aim of the platform was to allow artisans to share their knowledge and experience and thus empower each other. The platform offered the space for artisans to learn new techniques and develop their Ikat weaving practice, while also attracting buyers and donors who would financially support this practice. On 2 July 2020, the Binding for Ikat Platform was officially launched with the webinar entitled “Binding cultures in times of crisis”. The webinar featured artisans Kyozo Shimogawa and Selviana Boi Dao, who come from Japan and Indonesia respectively, as well as Dutch designer Nikkie Wester. This was the first step in the platform helping to forge connections between artisans from all over the world.
Alongside the Ikat Platform, CCD-NL also launched the European Solidarity Project in the summer of 2020. This project was aimed to be the cultural bridge between Europe and the East and it explored European funding policies for the culture and arts industry and connected European artists and cultural institutions. The project and the platform therefore shared the same goal of stimulating solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis and helping artisans connect to each other online. At the same time, the Kurume Kasuri Project was also launched. The goal of this project was to open up a market in the Netherlands for Japanese Kasuri weavings, which would financially benefit the Japanese artisans, while also inspirng interaction and collaboration with Dutch designers. This project is still ongoing, and this month CCD-NL will hold the third in a series of webinars about Japanese Kasuri.
In the past year, the Ikat Platform has grown and new projects have been launched to help it reach its goals. In total, the Ikat Platform now encompasses seven sub-projects. Apart from the Japanese Kasuri project, the platform also includes Lab for Ikat, Training for Trainers, the Pan-European Project, the Online Archiving and Museum Project, Indian Ikat, and Crisis and Recovery Management. More information about all of these projects can be found on the CCD-NL website and social media, including links to how you can donate to support each of the different projects.
Some of these projects are still in their early stages, while others have already achieved significant results. For instance, the Training for Trainers project has been a great success, as it resulted in Ikat artisans from different backgrounds gathering in an online space and sharing their knowledge about using sustainable natural dyes. The Kasuri Project has also been incredibly successful, as the webinars have drawn in a diverse group of speakers from all over the world, who have shared their knowledge and insights about Japanese Kasuri. The final webinar in the series is expected to draw in the largest audience thus far, and will hopefully result in more people becoming inspired by the Kasuri weaving tradition.
Admittedly, there are still improvements to be made which could help the Ikat Platform and its sub-projects reach their shared goal of uniting and supporting artisans. Namely, funding is still needed for almost all of the projects. One of the next goals of CCD-NL is to find new ways of getting funding and attracting donors. Moreover, communication between the leaders of the different projects ought to be streamlined in order to help create a better environment for sharing ideas. However, the Ikat Platform is doing good work overall to empower artisans and connect them to each other. With the help of new donors, it will hopefully be able to improve even more in the future.
Indonesian Ikat’s Ancient History
By Natasha Rebecca
Ikat weaving is an ancient technique which involves the preparation of threads through a process of tying, binding, and dyeing. This traditional textile can be found in Sumatra, East Java, Sulawesi, Bali, West and East of Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku. NTT Ikat is very rich in techniques, motifs, patterns, styles, and dyes. There has been much debate about the origin of the designs that characterize the textiles; it is generally recognized that some of the designs and motifs occurring in these textiles have diffused from other parts of the world, such as Vietnam, China, and India. Yet, there is no doubt that many of the features found in these fabrics are indigenous. Ikat fabric is different from other forms of fabric because of the main technique for its production. The word “Ikat” itself means ‘to tie’ (a knot) in the Indonesian language. Hence, the Ikat method is weaving through tying knots from the threads, dyed beforehand using natural dye.
Figure 1. Locations of tenun Ikat tradition in Indonesia.
NTT Ikat is extremely diverse in terms of motifs and designs. This diversity has contributed to the various functions and meanings of Ikat in the community. Not only does it represent a cultural identity in NTT, but it is also used for daily, traditional, and economic purposes. The daily use of woven fabrics has evolved over time. In the past, woven Ikat was more exclusive and only used for special events or by royalty, reflecting social status. In the present, it is used more universally and is less exclusive. Furthermore, each region in Indonesia which is known for its woven Ikat has unique uses and significance for the fabric. Particularly in NTT, Ikat can be used for traditional ceremonies, as a dowry, or as a repayment when one violates a tradition.
Figure 2. Ikat weavers in Belu, NTT.
Throughout the islands in the province, including Rote, Sawu, and Sumba, NTT Ikat represents peoples’ aesthetics, expressions, spirit, social order, pride, and dignity. These all play an important role in the socio-economic development of NTT. Tenun’s (weaving’s) economic purpose was initially as a good to be bartered within a barter economy. However, due to the intricacy of its art, nowadays it can function as a source of income for those who create it. The product itself has been one of Indonesia’s main exports, specifically in the fashion sector. This can be seen in the fact that woven products contributed 61.13% towards Indonesia’s export of fashion products in 2010, right after the financial crisis. The destination of half of the woven products is in 5 countries: Turkey, UAE, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.
Nevertheless, the role of Ikat weaving in contributing to the sustainable livelihoods in rural areas in NTT remains almost unexplored. There is no recognition given to the significance of Ikat weaving as a cultural asset through tourism, which, if utilized in this way, could contribute significantly to the development of the region. A few studies have been conducted about the empowerment of local rural communities through Ikat, but there are fewer studies about the potential contribution of local Ikat knowledge to socio-economic development in NTT and Indonesia at large.
The Origin of Ikat: BCE (Pre-Colonial times)
Chinese and Vietnamese influence
The largest outside influence on Nusa Tenggara Timur’s Ikat has been from China and Vietnam. Between 8 BCE and 2 BCE, there was considerable migration to Indonesia from the Annam region of Vietnam due to Chinese military pressure. The Vietnamese immigrants brought with them the Dong Son culture, which is believed to be the origin of backstrap loom weaving as well as Warp Ikat. Warp Ikat is one of the earliest pattern techniques in Indonesian sacred cloth and consists of “tying the warp yarns according to a specific pattern and dyeing them in a certain color before weaving”. The Dong Son culture existed in the Late Bronze Age in a coastal area of Vietnam between approximately 500 BC and 100 AC. The Dong Son people exported bronze drums to several areas across the now Indonesian archipelago, where on the drums, patterns can be found. Dong Son’s influence is prominent even in today’s warp-Ikat as seen from its design, depicting bronze work such as the soul ship, tree of life, and geometric patterns representing the details found in nature. As seen in Figures 3 and 4, similarities are present between the patterns found on Dong Son’s bronze drums and current Ikat from NTT. A similar occurrence can be identfied during the great migration from China in the 13th Century, which brought the culture of Late Chou to Indonesia. However, the Chinese influence is more apparent in fabric craftsmanship found in Kalimantan.
Figure 3. Dong Son’s motifs in bronze drums.
Figure 4.Current motifs of NTT Ikat.
Despite the wide acceptance of the idea that Dong Son has been a major influence upon many Southeast Asian (SEA) crafts, there are several who oppose this theory. Buckley (2012) in particular, using the Bayesian and Neighbornet techniques to construct a phylogenetic tree and taxonomy for warp Ikat weaving in SEA, disproved the theory. The original premise is that the diverse Ikat motifs in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and other SEA countries have a common ancestor; the bronze-casting Dong Son culture. However, this is inconsistent with data comparing Ikat motifs. Some ancestral motifs identified in various SEA cultures were not present on the bronze drums, while conversely, some patterns on the bronze drums are absent in SEA Ikat. The motifs found on the bronze artifacts fall into 3 categories: realistic depictions of animals, stylized depictions of athromorphs, and geometric repetitive motifs. The first two categories are not present in most SEA Ikat. The premise also does not explain the presence of shared Ikat motifs in Sulawesi and The Philippines, where Dong Son artifacts were not found.
However, Buckley (2012) did not present an alternative theory explaining where Ikat motifs originated, merely suggesting that they may have existed long before the Dong Son culture. The paper suggested that researchers should keep an open mind towards possible new theories while appreciating the variety of textiles and their underlying unity. Ikat’s origin remains a mystery which remains indiscernible for now. Hope lies in future research, as new relics might be found to provide more clues and complete the missing theoretical puzzles.
While its origin remains a mystery, it is clear that Ikat patterns and techniques which hold symbolic meaning are passed down through generations by practical demonstrations and word-of-mouth. With time, modifications and improvements are made, while some older aspects may be forgotten and no longer used. This transmission primarily occurs between mother to daughter, and between other female relatives in the close tribes. Because traditional weaving motifs serve as important markers of familial or cultural affiliation, the knowledge and rights to weave them tend to be transmitted sparingly. Indonesian Ikat is a truly female craft; women must possess the skill of weaving in Rote Ndao, as it is used to measure the maturity of a Rote woman, as seen from her ability to create motifs, dye, and weave cloth. If the craft has been mastered, then the woman is considered suitable for marriage. In some villages, women should be able to weave their own wedding dress.
There has also been Indian influence through trade since the 16th century. While spices and sandalwood were exchanged, so were textiles which gave the islanders a creative input encouraging improvement of their own weaving skills. In particular, Gujarati and Cambay cloth were traded extensively. Yet, the textile with the most significant influence on the textiles of Sumba, Rote, and eastern Flores was the Gujarati patola. This influence, however, did not extend beyond the islands of Rote.
The Kingdom of Biboki in ancient NTT was studied to analyze the influence of the Indian patola upon NTT tenun Ikat. Biboki was a kingdom of West Timor which produced the Atoin meto textile, characterized by the use of a Warp Ikat weaving technique called “futus”. This technique involves weaving weft threads into Ikat warp threads to form a single-warp Ikat textile of the tabby weave. Traditionally, weavers were mostly aristocratic women as they were the only members of society with the time available to make such sophisticated and intricate textiles. It is assumed that this is where Ikat as a symbol of status began.
Patola, which originated from Gujarat in northwest India, came to Biboki as an exchange with white sandalwood. It has symmetrical, geometric, zoomorphic, and anthropomorphic designs. There is considerable visual evidence which shows how the patola motifs are incorporated in the Atoin meto motif. It is important to note that when designs from a foreign source are copied, weavers tend to re-interpret the motif in terms of their own basic shapes vocabulary rather than creating an exact copy. The use of the copied-patola motif was restricted by the Biboki king and his family to ensure that the motif remained an indicator of prestige. This exclusive use of the motif is similar to the use of family symbols of crests by noble families in ancient Britain. These prized clothes were stored inside ceremonial houses under strict security which enforced their sacred nature. Due to this control, Patola had a limited impact on local textile motifs, which may explain why the influence of Indian textiles in NTT remains limited to present-day Rote.
Figure 5. Indian patola found in Timor (top) compared to the copied patola by local NTT villagers (bottom).
According to available literature it is clear that the claim that only nobles were engaged in weaving might not be entirely true. Although it is possible that the trend of weaving diffused from the nobles to the common people, this does not explain the NTT tradition of girls weaving as symbolic of coming of age. Weaving is also a source of income for the common people. The lack of historical records detailing weaving by common people may simply be a result of research bias caused by a tendency to focus on elite groups such as royal families. Hence, most academic articles seem to begin from the more famous motifs, possibly to limit the scope, as researching the many peoples of multiple NTT islands would prove an almost insurmountable task.
Another historical link between the weaving traditions of India and Indonesia is present in eastern Flores, where floral patterns from the patola are found in textiles which appear as a symbol of noble status. Similarly, in Sumba, a network of rectangular forms called the patola ratu, which belonged to the highest class for generations, were present. As seen in Figure 6, the floral forms are also found in the design of men’s mantles in Sumba.
Figure 6. Men’s mantle from Sumba with a floral motif inspired by Gujarat patola.
The floral pattern, specifically called the eight-pointed flowers (called chhabadi bhat in India and jlamprang in Indonesia), is one of the most famous and widespread patterns. Its design was assimilated into local textiles, which became a prestige symbol for aristocratic families. Another patola pattern that was popular in Indonesia is a pattern depicting elephants.
Additional scientific proof of the influence of Indian culture upon Indonesia’s Ikat is the carbon-14 dating of various cotton cloths with patterns using block print and reserve dye processes produced in India which became heirlooms in Indonesia and present-day Timor-Leste. However, as the influence of Dong Son and Chinese techniques were mentioned before, it is unlikely that the Indonesian Ikat tradition derived solely from India. Instead, Livingston (1994) proposed that the Ikat tradition developed “simultaneously but separately” as it was not only developed in NTT, but also in other parts of Indonesia, such as Palembang and Bali.
Furthermore, an interesting difference between the Ikat weaving of India and Indonesia is that Indian weavers are mostly men, whereas in Indonesia this tradition is exclusively for women, with men only allowed to participate in dyeing certain colors of the yarn. In Indonesia, these roles are analogous to each gender’s limited yet important role in human conception, as “the spinning and dyeing of yarns and the weaving of them into pieces of cloth was traditionally regarded as symbolic of the process of creation, and of human birth”. This relates to how in Indonesia, skilled weavers are highly sought after as wives. It is of no doubt, however, that both Indonesian and Indian Ikat are integrated into the daily life of both cultures; symbolizing status, proclaiming beliefs, offering protection, and signifying historical context and traditions.
Cultural and Symbolic Meaning of Ikat
Before the creation of the Republic of Indonesia, local weavers in the old kingdoms of NTT devised ways to differentiate between their people. Differences in color, motif, and fringing mark the person wearing cloth as a resident of the different kingdoms (Amanuban, Amfoan, Amarasi, or other kingdoms), clans, and social statuses within the community. Within each group, different motifs and colors represented varying significance based on local legends or customary law. Although the old kingdoms have now disappeared, the meanings embedded in the motifs and colors of the textiles remain important in traditional ceremonies and rituals (adat).
Generally, the patterns of Indonesian sacred cloth fall into four main categories: geometric, human and animal, abstract, and natural objects. Geometric patterns emerged from the Dong Son culture and its ritual drums with geometric patterns. Its patterns, consisting of hooks, spirals, meanders, triangles and circles link with one another to create a form (for example human or animal patterns) with sacred cultural meaning. This relates to how the Warp Ikat technique, popular in NTT, is used mostly for mystic rituals related to animism. Animism is the belief that animal patterns are symbolic and mimic human traits of providing mystical powers. For example, reptiles are seen as symbols of the underworld and birds of the upper world.
Influenced by the Dong Son culture, Nusa Tenggara patterns are symbolic and narrative. This differs from festive and aristocratic Balinese patterns and more repetitive Javanese patterns, as the geometric patterns characteristic of NTT Ikat create human and animal forms which tell stories about folklore or local beliefs, including expressions of personal feelings. Ikat motifs are therefore representative of sacred concerns related to nature and spirit worship. A summary of NTT’s weaving patterns and its meaning can be seen in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Main patterns found in NTT textile.
In an interview with a weaver from Belu, it was explained that Ikat’s motifs have been present since ancient times. She gave an example using the motif, ujung tombak, explaining the story behind it: “a long time ago when our ancestors went to war and survived, there will be a victory party where the survivors must wear cloth with the ujung tombak motif.”Traditionally, on the Island of Flores, Ikat is used for daily cultural and religious Purposes, whilst in Rote, Ikat is mainly used for ceremonial purposes.
Livingston (1994) stated that Ikat textiles in the past were emblematic, as it helps to locate the textile’s owner within a social and cultural matrix. An excerpt regarding the ancient tradition of Ikat textile was taken from the writings of Philippe de Montebello:
“Ancient Indonesia was the hub of trading systems, and a pathway for religious and artistic influences, which conveyed exotic patterns and forms throughout Indonesia’s thousands of island populations, supplementing and modifying patterns already millenia old. Images deeply embedded in the ancient neolithic traditions of Indonesian peoples combined with designs acquired from other Asian civilisations to create a rich iconographic tradition which celebrated a cosmology founded on a pantheon of gods, a population of revered ancestors, and a universe teeming with supernatural presences. Textiles were central to the tasks of mediating between mankind and this often dangerous or terrifying universe, and of maintaining a balance that kept them in their due position.”
The potential for the fast fashion industry: Learning sustainable practices from Ikat
By Marija Nikolić
IMAGE: Selviana Boi Dao
The fashion industry has gone through significant changes over the last several decades. With the rise of social media, the trend cycle has become much faster than it used to be. Consumers now not only shop far more than before, but they also discard their clothing much more quickly, seeing it as much more disposable. This is both due to the low prices and quality, as well as because of the immense amount of new clothing at their disposal at all times.
Major fast fashion clothing brands such as H&M, Zara, or C&A offer many different clothing lines throughout the year, refreshing their stores on almost a weekly basis. But while trends come and go at such an alarmingly fast pace, the technology behind how clothes are produced has not innovated nearly as quickly. It remains a complex process with an enormous environmental impact. Namely, the process of making clothes creates significant water and chemical waste and produces an immense amount of greenhouse gasses. Indeed, according to new research, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, because of the immense amount of chemicals, a lot of the clothes are also difficult or impossible to recycle, so the vast majority of clothing items end up in landfills. In fact, every year, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created worldwide. In addition to this, workers employed in fast fashion factories are underpaid and exploited, while often also being exposed to extremely unsafe working conditions.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the discussion around fast fashion and its overwhelmingly negative impact on vulnerable communities and the environment. In many discussions of the issue, an emphasis has been placed on ethical and sustainable fashion. Consumers are now being urged to research the brands they support, or to choose to shop second-hand. On the other hand, companies are becoming more aware of the shifting public perception of fast fashion, and some are making steps towards creating more sustainable products. However, in order for there to be true change, our collective view of the fashion industry needs to change. Creating clothing sustainably requires more time and better quality materials. Additionally, clothing needs to be seen as valuable, something to be cared for and mended in case of tears, rather than something to be discarded after being worn a few times.
IMAGE: Ikat cloth by Marsa Fattu
Aside from second-hand shopping, another alternative to fast fashion can be found in traditional textiles, such as Ikat. This ancient weaving technique is practiced in many parts of the world, including Indonesia, Japan, India, and some parts of Europe. CCD-NL is currently focused on preserving this tradition and connecting Ikat weavers to designers in the Netherlands. Ikat weavings take a significant amount of time to create, and the end results are much higher in quality than fast fashion clothing. While not all Ikat is made completely sustainably, many artisan communities are actively working on learning more sustainable ways of creating their weavings. For example, weavers from Belu and Rote-Ndao, Indonesia have worked with CCD-NL through our ‘Training for Trainers’ project to learn how to create natural dyes instead of chemical ones. Moreover, purchasing traditional textiles such as Ikat directly helps vulnerable communities instead of exploiting and harming them.
However, it is unrealistic to expect consumers to completely give up fast fashion for ethical and sustainability reasons. For many, purchasing fast fashion remains the most convenient and affordable option, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years. It is therefore the fashion industry that needs drastic change. Namely, fashion companies could potentially implement some of the practices used in Ikat weaving in order to create more sustainable and enduring products. Firstly, they could implement the use of natural dyes on a larger scale, thus doing away with much of the negative environmental impact of chemical dyes. Secondly, they may attempt to use some of the same materials and weaving techniques to create sturdier textiles that would be less prone to damage and would thus last longer. Finally, it is integral that the companies that use the skilled labor of weavers and artisans create a safe environment for their workers and pay them fair wages, which would in turn help their entire communities.
Ikat weaving practices therefore represent the potential for what the fashion industry ought to strive for. This is why it is so important that Ikat artisans are supported in creating their weavings and learning new sustainable techniques. Supporting and empowering artisan communities is the goal of CCD-NL’s five-year pilot project. If you wish to learn more about this project or to donate, you can do so on our website ccd-nl.org.
An introduction to TENUN Fashion Week
By Natasha Rebecca
*TRANSLASI INDONESIA TERSEDIA DI BAWAH* (*INDONESIAN TRANSLATION BELOW*)
Southeast Asia has a handwoven textiles heritage with a wide spectrum of images and displaying considerable technical prowess, ranging from fine fabrics produced for royal palaces to bright cloths woven by people in the farthest reaches of mountains and islands. TENUN, ASEAN’s first fashion week dedicated only to handweaves, reimagines their continuous significance by looking at how they are used in today’s fashion.
Southeast Asia’s weaving communities are at the center of this event, celebrating the way of life and livelihood of the people who manufacture the clothing using their handiwork. The fashion week contributes to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by standing with these weaving communities, including those of rural women (SDGs):
TENUN also supports ASEAN’s Culture and Arts Strategic Plan 2016-2025 by encouraging intercultural contact and collaboration, instilling a sense of ownership for ASEAN’s cultural heritage, and harnessing culture for inclusive and sustainable development. Their work ethics are in line with the event’s vision, which states,
“As weaving sustains lives, weaving lives on.”
Launching on the 15–17 October 2021, TENUN will consist of digital fashion displays that will be aired online. The fashion week welcomes participants, weaving groups and any additional designers, from all ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore). Fabrics woven by these weaving groups for use in the featured collections must be made on any sort of handloom configuration using traditional techniques. In the run-up to the event, weaver community biographies and behind-the-scenes footage of the collection’s production will be screened, with Jury and People’s Choice Awards to be presented to selected participants. The event will be open to the public for viewing.
Additionally, as a supplement to a projected international event in eco-fiber and textiles, TENUN will be accompanied by an online shop, which will be available on the event’s official website, and will conclude with a live fashion show (subject to acceptable COVID-19 standards) in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
We will be appearing on DAY 3 on the 17th of October! Tune in at 7-9 PM Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Denpasar time/6-8 PM Jakarta, Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Hanoi Time/ 1-3 PM Netherlands time.
Tenun is free to view online via:
- Website: tenunfashionweek.com
- Youtube channel: ‘TENUN Fashion Week’
- Facebook page: ‘TENUN Fashion Week’
Sebuah Perkenalan Pekan Mode Tenun
Oleh Natasha Rebecca
Asia Tenggara memiliki warisan tekstil tenunan tangan dengan spektrum gambar yang luas dan menampilkan kecakapan teknis yang cukup besar, mulai dari kain halus yang diproduksi untuk istana kerajaan hingga kain cerah yang ditenun oleh orang-orang di pegunungan dan pulau terjauh. TENUN, pekan mode pertama ASEAN yang didedikasikan hanya untuk tenun tangan, membayangkan kembali signifikansi berkelanjutan mereka dengan melihat bagaimana mereka digunakan dalam mode saat ini.
Komunitas tenun Asia Tenggara menjadi pusat acara ini, merayakan cara hidup dan mata pencaharian orang-orang yang memproduksi pakaian ini dengan merasakan hasil karya mereka. Pekan mode berkontribusi pada Tujuan Pembangunan Berkelanjutan Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa berikut dengan berdiri bersama komunitas penenun ini, termasuk komunitas perempuan pedesaan (SDGs):
TENUN juga mendukung Rencana Strategis Kebudayaan dan Seni ASEAN 2016-2025 dengan mendorong kontak dan kolaborasi antarbudaya, menanamkan rasa memiliki terhadap warisan budaya ASEAN, dan memanfaatkan budaya untuk pembangunan yang inklusif dan berkelanjutan. Etika kerja mereka sejalan dengan visi acara, yang menyatakan,
“Saat menenun menopang kehidupan, menenun tetap hidup.”
Diadakan pada 15–17 Oktober 2021, TENUN akan terdiri dari peragaan busana digital yang akan ditayangkan secara online. Pekan mode ini menyambut peserta, kelompok tenun, dan desainer tambahan, dari seluruh negara ASEAN. Acara ini gratis dan terbuka untuk umum.
Kami akan muncul di HARI KE-3 pda tanggal 17 Oktober! Tonton kami di jam 7-9 PM waktu Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Denpasar/6-8 PM waktu Jakarta, Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Hanoi/ 1-3 PM waktu Belanda.
Pekan mode TENUN dapat ditonton secara gratis lewat,
Situs web tenunfashionweek.com
Youtube ‘TENUN Fashion Week’
Facebook ‘TENUN Fashion Week’
Selain itu, sebagai suplemen untuk acara internasional yang diproyeksikan di bidang serat ramah lingkungan dan tekstil, TENUN akan disertai dengan toko online, yang akan tersedia di situs web resmi acara tersebut, dan akan ditutup dengan peragaan busana langsung (bergantung pada COVID- 19 standar) di Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
The Significance of Kasuri in Ryukyu Culture
By Elidh McKnight
An introduction to ethnicity in Japan
Japan is a country which is commonly seen as ethnically homogenous, with foreign citizens constituting only 2.2% of its population. Further, the ethnic Japanese population is dominated by the Yamato majority, constituting over 90% of ethnic Japanese citizens. However, Japan is home to a small number of native ethnic minority groups who hold their own rich cultural histories and traditions, despite historic attempts by various ruling authorities in Japan to culturally homogenize and assimilate these groups.
Among these minority groups are the Ryukyuan people, native to the Ryukyu Islands. This group is a large Japanese ethnolinguistic minority, despite remaining unrecognized as an ethnic minority group by the Japanese government, who ascribe to them the identity of a Yamato subgroup.
Thus, maintenance of Ryukyu culture is paramount, as it has survived colossal challenges. During the Pacific War, the Okinawa islands were ravaged by conflict between the USA and Japan, resulting in the death of many valued Kasuri artisans and destruction of weaving facilities. Despite this, Ryukyu Kasuri was maintained as an artisanal practice through the integration of traditional techniques with modern designs. This is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Ryukyu people to maintain their cultural traditions.
IMAGE: Traditional Ryukyuan dress in the late period. Source: Wikiwand
Among many other cultural practices, the Ryukyu minority boasts its own form of Japanese Kasuri, which in fact originated in the Ryukyu Kingdom before the Japanese invasion of 1609 caused the diffusion of Kasuri to the mainland. Thus, Ryukyu Kasuri plays an essential founding role in the formation of the traditional Japanese craft of Kasuri and is traditionally a famous Kasuri production area. Ryukyu Kasuri features more than 600 different pattern variations whose inspiration is derived from the flora and fauna found on the island, as well as objects from the sky such as stars and clouds and objects used in daily life such as scissors. The motifs can also be humorous, taking inspiration from quirkier sources such as a dog’s footprints or the human eyebrow!
As well as the traditional indigo dye, Ryukyu Kasuri derives yellow dye from the bark of the common garcinia tree. The trees must mature over a period of 200 years before they are ready to be used as dye, meaning that the use of this special dye is an inadvertent but very tangible link between present day Kasuri artists and their ancestors.
IMAGE: Examples of Ryukyu Kasuri motifs. Source: HaoTextile
In addition to being arguably the birthplace of Japanese Kasuri, the Ryukyu Islands are known for its production of a particularly unique textile known as kijōka bashōfu. This ancient and unique material is made using banana fibres, which innovatively creates a textile appropriate for the climate of Okinawa by not sticking to the skin. Bashōfu cloth is often used in the production of Kasuri in Okinawa and is greatly valued by the local Ryukyu people as a part of their cultural heritage. Thus, the unique nature of techniques such as this add further value and importance to the preservation of Ryukyu Kasuri as a cultural product of the Ryukyu people, and to its recognition as such.
IMAGE: Bashofu Kasuri cloth. Source: kimono.org
CCD-NL is proud to feature Ryukyuan artisan Koji Oshiro in the webinar ‘Sharing Kasuri’s Tomorrow’ on 23rd November 2021. As a creator or Ryukyu Kasuri, Oshiro’s family-run weaving factory, Muramasa Orimono Kobo, is based on the island of Okinawa, perhaps the most well-known of the Ryukyu Islands. This provides a rare opportunity to learn more about the art of Ryukyu Kasuri and its cultural significance for the Ryukyu minority group, as well as to help support preservation of the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its valuable artisanal traditions by donating to our ‘geef’ campaign.
IMAGE: Koji Oshiro, artisan
Maintaining Tradition in a Transitory World: Webinar Recap
By Natasha Rebecca
Kasuri (絣) is a Japanese expression for a fabric woven using a distinct technique that is appreciated for its indigo blue and distinct white patterns. The production method is more familiarly recognised as ‘Ikat’, which translates to ‘to tie’. This rich cultural tradition has withstood the test of time and has settled in the shadows of Japan’s distinctive vibrant cultural heritages.
To shed more light upon the art and history of Kasuri, CCD-NL launched a three-part online webinar series. The webinar concentrated on the past, present, and future of Japanese Kurume Kasuri. Hosted by a diverse set of international speakers varying from traditional Kasuri artisans, scholars, and award-winning Dutch designers who collectively provided better insights on how the history and current production of Kasuri can secure a better future for sustainable textiles.
The second webinar, “Maintaining Tradition in a Transitory World”, was held on 29th April 2021. Laura Luchtman, founder and designer at Kukka Studio, and Kyozo Shimogawa, Kasuri, craftsman and the third-generation owner of Shimogawa Orimono, spoke about the difficulties and predicaments enclosing on the modern state of Kasuri handicraft and traditional products through the design process while balancing art projects and commercial production and the limits of working with Kasuri in the contemporaneous day-to-day production.
In the webinar, Laura Luchtman reflected on the contrast between the Netherlands and Japan in recognizing and utilizing handi-crafts and traditional production techniques. Shimogawa joined that the common distinctive difference is that Japan preserves traditional techniques in daily life through commercial and profitable production which leads to a generation of jobs to various talented craftsmen. While in Europe traditional pieces are only conserved in museums. “This is due to the scarcity of traditional pieces left in the Netherlands”, explained Luchtman. Luchtmans view was that traditional crafts are understood by the long hours, days or even months used to fabricate a single design and is consequently interpreted valuably in commercial production and should be rarely used in daily life… “This system is made by the history,” Shimogawa pointed out.
When it comes to Kasuri design, Shimogawa considered how digital technology has displayed a helping hand for craftsmen, suggesting that craftsmen are not compelled to make all designs by hand. He then emphasised that preserving Kasuri in the traditional technique and customs would enable the artisan to grasp the spirit of the heritage of creation.
The upcoming webinar, “Sharing Kasuri’s Tomorrow”, will be held on 23 November 2021, where sustainable textile artisans from Shimogawa Orimono and Marumasa Orimono debate about the future of Kasuri. This webinar will highlight how the cultural and social ties between the Netherlands and Japan can better and improve the preservation of Kasuri. In honour of the Inoue Den’s principle, CCD-NL is gifting our webinar free of charge.
Register now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sharing-kasuris-tomorrow-tickets-166031106509
Everything we do – from cultural development research to helping provide materials for Kasuri artisans and is made possible thanks to people who share the passion for preserving valuable cultural heritage and traditions.
Donate now in https://www.geef.nl/nl/actie/fund-kasuri/donateurs
The Historical Journey of Japanese Kasuri: Webinar Recap
By Natasha Rebecca
Kasuri (絣) is a Japanese expression for fabric woven using a specific technique known for its indigo, blue, and white pattern. Its production method is more familiarly known as ‘Ikat’, which means ‘to tie’. This beautiful cultural tradition has withstood the test of time but has remained mostly hidden in the shadow of Japan’s other vibrant cultural heritages. To shed more light upon the art of Kasuri and its history, CCD-NL launched a three-part online webinar series focusing on the past, present and future of Japanese Kurume Kasuri. The series features a variety of speakers, including Kasuri artisans, scholars, and designers, who together provide deeper insights into the history, production, and sustainable future of Kasuri.
The first webinar of the Kurume Kasuri series, “The Historical Journey of Japanese Kasuri”, took place on 26 November 2020 with Kyozo Shimogawa, a Kurume Kasuri craftsman. The third-generation owner of Shimogawa Orimono (Shimogawa Textiles) has been crafting Kurume Kasuri for 26 years, and was given the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Award at the 2015 Manufacturing Japan Awards.
Originating in 1800, Kurume Kasuri was invented by 12-year old Inoue Den, based on her concern about white spots occurring due to uneven indigo dyeing of cotton fabric being produced in the Kurume area. Den experimented with unwinding the cloth to intentionally create white patterns in the indigo-dyed fabrics. Thus, the Kasuri technique was born. While, generally, craftsmanship is a confidential matter, Den taught her crafts to thousands of her disciples free of charge. Fitting of her name, Den, meaning ‘to convey’, she lived a life which continued to convey the Kurume Kasuri technique, alongside various others who contributed to its development, making it a widely produced textile in the Chikugo district.
During the transition between the Edo era and the Meiji era, Kurume Kasuri became popular nationwide due to its distribution by peddlers. Through the remodeling of looms, the devising of patterns, the development of sales channels, the emergence of factories, and the acquisition of patents, Kurume Kasuri has evolved to support the local economy as a major industry. Handwoven fabrics using the Kasuri technique were produced not only in shops and factories but also domestically in the homes of weavers, increasing the number of Kurume Kasuri producers. Moreover, Kurume Kasuri established a union which strives for quality control, earning a positive reputation throughout the country.
Even with the increasing progression of industrialization in Japan and the introduction of power looms after 1880, Kurume Kasuri maintained the principle of hand-weaving to avoid losing its reputation due to geographical factors and deterioration of quality. In 1934, power looms were finally used in combination with the crafts’ handwork while, simultaneously, fully hand-woven Kurume Kasuri continues to be made. During the Pacific War, production of cotton thread decreased due to the cotton yarn regulation. It was revived after the regulation was lifted and peaked at 14,880,000 m/year in 1957. However, the production has been declining since then due to the widespread use of chemical fibers and the decline of daily kimono wear, forcing producers out of business almost every year. As of 2020, the number of Kurume Kasuri producers has decreased to approximately 18, and the only production areas in Japan which have inherited the Kasuri technique are using power looms.
Considering recent events, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Toshimitsu Musya, developed a product focusing on the fact that the fluctuation of the phenomenon 1/f, which is universally seen in the natura world, brings comfort. The unique pattern fluctuations can be produced only by the Kasuri manufacturing method. A manufacturing method which coexists with nature and aligns with a sustainable modern way of thinking. “The charm of Kasuri is being recognized again,” said Shimogawa as he closed the informational session.
The fascinating history behind the Kasuri technique serves as a precious cultural narrative, inspiring not only Kyozo Shimogawa himself but also Madoka Koga, a Kasuri designer, and Nozomi Kanehara, a Kasuri enthusiast, as they gathered in a room for a fruitful discussion. They admired the talent and creativity of Inoue Den to create of the Kasuri method, and acknowledged the creative challenges weavers, both then and now, face to create unique art. The Japanese textile heritage has also inspired Laura Luchtman, a Dutch designer and Founder of Kukka Studio, to travel to Japan and research deeper into the textile regions, observing and connecting with the local weavers. Watch the whole webinar here!
Following this exploration of Kurume Kasuri’s past, the second webinar, “Maintaining Tradition in a Transitory World”, was held on 29 April 2021. Laura Luchtman and Kyozo Shimogawa spoke about the foreign ties between Kasuri and other textile practices, especially how Japanese and Dutch Artisans can work together concretely. Curious and want to know more? Watch the webinar here and read our article here!
The last upcoming webinar, “Sharing Kasuri’s Tomorrow”, will be held on 23 November 2021 in which Laura Luctman, Kyozo Shimogawa, Koji Oshiro and Leki Nagahara will discuss the future of Kasuri. This diverse webinar will highlight how the cultural ties and understanding between the Netherlands and Japan can help with Kasuri’s preservation. In honor of Inoue Den’s principle, CCD-NL is providing the event free of charge! Register now in https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sharing-kasuris-tomorrow-tickets-166031106509
Everything we do – from cultural development research to helping provide materials for Kasuri artisans – is made possible thanks to people like you who share our passion for preserving valuable cultural heritage. Please consider giving a donation to our foundation because your support is vital to building a sustainable development through culture. Donate now via https://www.geef.nl/nl/actie/fund-kasuri/donateurs
CCD-NL’s Reuse and Recycle Project: Building Sustainability and Adaptability
Spearheaded by CCD-NL’s Julia Landers, the Reuse and Recycle of Ikat into Design and Fashion Pieces project looks to simultaneously aid Ikat artisans develop more sustainable practices, while further empowering their products in an international market by collaborating with Dutch and Indonesian designers and CCD-NL to produce new high-end products using leftover materials from Ikat production.
“While crafting traditional Ikats, artisans will inevitable have leftover Ikat fragments- yarn, trimmings, leftover materials- and right now they are unfortunately being thrown away, as local artisans lack the necessary resources to recycle or repurpose these extra materials. This is where we saw an opportunity to both make the Ikat a more sustainable craft, while also creating a new product and market for artisans,” said project lead Julia Landers.
“The initiative is planning to send these various leftovers to both Dutch and Indonesian designers who will try to collaborate on incorporating the various leftover materials into new creative high-end fashion and interior design products. Then over on our end at CCD-NL we will handle funding, marketing and eventually the manufacturing of these new Ikat products.”
Sustainable and fashionable goals
We probed Julia for what some of the long-term goals for the project might be, and she responded saying, “This is all a part of CCD-NL’s ongoing goals of promoting the development of Ikat artisans without compromising the sustainability of Ikat products. Not just that though, we’re trying to make them even more sustainable! We’re all trying to be part of a sustainability movement, considering the origins of materials, the conditions of the artisans, and other efforts while further empowering further cultural and economic development.
“Hopefully, the Reuse and Recycle project will create a variety of new successful Ikat products to further supplement the artisans. It’s not just that however, part of the over-arching goals are to further encourage international interest in the rich history of Ikat crafts and engage artisans to consider and create in a more sustainable fashion, and these new products can do just that.”
Support sustainable fashion and design
Julia told us, “While we are very excited about the Reuse and Recycle project, it is still in the planning stage. Though, I can say we have multiple avenues for pushing the project forwards and have already have designers interested in being a part of the project.”
Ajitesh Lokhande: “Technology and Cultural Preservation”
Ajitesh Lokhande is a member of the Digikat team and a graphic designer who has chosen to share his thoughts and ideas in advance of attending CCD-NL’s Kasuri Crafts seminar as a speaker. Digikat is exploring how Ikat patterns can be transferred into digital mediums and testing how cultural identities can be preserved through modern products.
Crafts and the graphic designer
Originally hailing from Mumbai and now living and working in Paris, Ajitesh told us of his early fascination with Ikat, “I did my undergraduate studies in graphic design at the National Institute of Design, and the NID’s renowned textile department featured a series of Ikats as well as other similar crafts. From there I went on to work with a variety of brands and markets, but always remembered and held an interest with traditional cultural products.”
“Now as a member of Digitkat I am working on a project we call Oriqat. Together we’re working on developing an all-new optical recognition code, one which could be embedded into Ikat fabrics seamlessly. This recognition code would act almost like an artist’s signature, but would be able to contain so much more information like the artisan who produced the Ikat, where it originated from, and would mark the Ikat as authentic, and so on. We’re hoping Oriqat can embed traceability into Ikat products, as well as giving both recognition to the weaver and assurance of authenticity to buyers.”
Digitizing traditional crafts
“We’re already seeing Ikat being molded and adapted into an increasingly digital age. There are the Ikat ‘prints,’ replicating the aesthetics and designs of Ikat but only applied surface deep over existing textiles. While fine on their own, I don’t think this kind of surface level replication will be enough to preserve the cultural knowledge of Ikat production.”
Ajitesh continued describing ways in which he saw Ikat becoming increasingly embraced technologically, “There is this rising DIY culture, along with is a growing appreciation of handmade products. While this is an optimistic niche for Ikat, I don’t think it’s enough for Ikat to firmly find a place in popular culture. It needs to evolve. Needs to find it’s place by tackling issues of sustainability, accessibility, and cultural authenticity while spreading globally. Working to facilitate these DIY Ikat projects globally, while still providing a solid connection to their cultural origins may prove very beneficial to preserving Ikat in the future.”
Kasuri Webinar: An opportunity for exposure and collaboration
Ajitesh told us, “I’m really looking forward to the upcoming webinar, I think something like this really leverages the connection of the digital age in the service of traditional culture. Just getting people together and discussing Kasuri and Ikat would be great on its own, but we might even be able to form concrete collaborative projects from the connections made. Not to mention how people and organizations might see the potential these crafts have as products and would maybe partner with CCD-NL to make them more available globally.”
Get Involved in preserving culture!
“I think the Kasuri project is a superb initiative and I’m glad I got to be a part of it. Its collaborative, cross cultural approach will ensure good outcomes whether in terms of product ideas or preservation strategies. I hope CCD-NL continues to work with this approach towards revitalizing cultural heritage around the world.”
Urban Medley: A journey to promote tradition and art forms sustainable and respectful to the environment
The concept we proudly call Urban Medley was based on a deep-rooted urge and passion to give back to the land I loved, India. To make a difference to the lives of its master craftsmen and artisans. I started this journey to promote sustainable, handmade fashion accessories from India and to bring to the consumers in Europe products which balance tradition with contemporary design.
Urban Medley was scheduled to launch Christmas of 2019, however, there were certain technical glitches which pushed back our launch and finally we launched around February 2020, just about when the world was being engulfed by the pandemic- COVID19.
Yes, we launched Urban Medley just as Corona cemented its hold on this part of Europe, especially in Netherlands. This was an unimaginable experience which taught us much as entrepreneurs and as people. The hardships faced convinced us more than ever how important it was to make this a success and take our story forward. It had never been so crucial that we change the way we live and consume – The world had changed!
As a brand Urban Medley is presently working with peace or cruelty free silk and Organic Black (Kala) cotton. Our product line for now is confined to scarves, wraps and capes- products which are not limited by size and body shape and in some cases can also be considered gender neutral.
So, what is peace or ahimsa silk? Not every consumer is aware that there is a cruelty free way of producing silk. Instead of boiling the cocoon in hot water while the silkworm is still alive, as it is done in conventional silk production, in case of peace silk we wait for the silkworm to cut through the cocoon as it metamorphoses into a moth and discards the cocoon. The yarn is spun from the discarded cocoon and then woven into silk fabric. Spinning and weaving is done by hand and the silk yield in this method is much less than when you boil the cocoon- however as a process it is more ethical, cruelty free and sustainable. It retains the purest qualities of silk.
Cotton, as we are aware, is not one of the most sustainable simply because of the excessive amount of water required for its cultivation- however KALA organic cotton is an old-world cotton which is completely rain fed and uses no synthetic fertilizer or chemical pesticide. This is a resilient variety of cotton traditional to the Kutch region of Gujrat in Western India.
We work with small designers who are themselves strong advocates of sustainability, and almost all our products are handmade. The designers work directly with the artisans at times, while the artisans are working directly out of their homes. The artisans work at their pace or in small workshops, and the atmosphere is almost like an extended family where each is doing what they are best at. As a group, the artisans are passionate about taking their art to the global market, and it is important to note as we work with artisans we strive to give them the opportunity to be economically independent and do what they are best at doing’.
Our silk is hand block printed, we use bright colours, elements from nature or bold geometric strokes. The cotton is more subtle and neutral. We try to make our design stands out. Sustainable accessories and apparel too can be exciting.
In addition to handblock printing we also promote Madhubani art – a traditional art form 2500 years old. In ancient times Mahbubani was a mural art exclusively practised by women, traditionally used to decorate the walls of temples and houses. In ancient times the art was never preserved as rain would wash the wall paintings, but the skill and expertise was passed on from one generation to the next- from mother to daughter. Much later in the 1960s- and purely by accident- this art was transposed on paper and later fabric, making it accessible worldwide.
As a brand at Urban Medley, we would like to introduce you to the items produced by upcoming designers and artisans from India who are working relentlessly to revive traditional art forms using sustainable fabrics and methods of production. By promoting and marketing these products we help to empower the marginalized and give them the opportunity to make a decent living doing what they are best at- enhancing their centuries old arts and crafts.
Urban Medley is not about mass production and machine-made perfection, it is all handcrafted, so there is room for minute imperfections and minor blemishes which then translates to the uniqueness of the final product and therefore no two will be an exact copy
We are an ardent advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals, and always are conscious of the social impact of our business. We are mindful of the fact that our artisan community is paid fairly and there is no gender discrimination.
We comply with sustainable production standards, support economic growth and help encourage gender equality working in conjunction with our brilliant team of designers and artisans.
When you shop at Urban Medley you promote ethical production and get yourself an heirloom accessory and something very exclusive.
Perspectives on Kasuri crafts with artisan Kyozo Shimogawa
CCD-NL’s upcoming Kasuri crafts webinar will feature a variety of talented artisans, one of which is Japanese Kurume Kasuri artisan Kyozo Shimogawa. He has agreed to speak with us ahead of the seminar about both his unique experiences and offer us sneak peek into what he hopes to accomplish with CCD-NL in the future.
A History with Kasuri
We began by asking Shimogawa to elaborate more on his background surrounding Kasuri, and he told us how, “I was basically born with Kurume Kasuri; it was a part of my family before I was born, so it is almost second nature to me. My family is very traditional, and we have been making Kasuri for decades and that history and tradition is something that gives courage to other people. It reminds us of who we are and how far we have come, and there is a strength and comfort in that.”
Shimogawa went on saying, “I have been working with Kasuri for over 27 years, and in this time I have worked with various people in the international community to promote and spread knowledge of Kasuri. Now I am happy to be taking part in these webinars to further spread awareness of Kasuri farther than ever.”
Kurume Kasuri in a Globalized World
We at CCD-NL asked Shimogawa to describe where he sees Kasuri today as part of a global culture and market. He considered the situation with Kasuri to be “very special and unique” even among various Ikat textiles.
“I think to preserve Kasuri in our increasingly modernized world we need to create a stable economic environment to form strong business relationships. In Western culture traditions are usually preserved by placing them in museum, placing them away from people. Separate. However, in Japan cultural traditions are preserved through normal daily use. We use these traditional crafts and objects as a normal part of daily life. Its this difference that I think of most when considering how to preserve Kasuri globally. How can we bring Kasuri into daily life for more people, and keep it there?“
The Kasuri Project Webinar
“When the Kasuri project was first introduced, I was invited to Rotterdam – but for obvious reasons, including Covid-19 – that did not work out. Yet, I think by moving these webinars online we have had other advantages, and it has created more opportunities to promote Kasuri reach a greater number of people. Rather than me spending countless hours and all my energy moving from place to place trying to promote Kasuri, I can reach everyone at once from the comfort of my own home. It is exactly this type of innovation which will help sustain Kasuri into the future.”
We probed Shimogawa for his thoughts on working with a Dutch designer for the first time during this next upcoming webinar, and he stated how, “Its very exciting and I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas and perspectives. It will make for a more dynamic and exciting experience for us, and our viewers. We are even going to be working a proposal for a collaborative project to further enable this exchange.”
Shimogawa went on to describe his aspirations for the seminar saying, “I think everyone’s reasons for attending these webinars are unique. For me personally, I am looking forward to forging new business relations with the other guests. I hope that the exchange of ideas and opinions will also create new ideas, techniques, and relationships which facilitates completely new changes and developments.”
Preservation through Adaptation
“But what I would like to say now is that I believe cultural traditions – in my case Kurume Kasuri – can only be sustained and preserved through adaptation into the world of today. We can’t expect the world to stay the same to accommodate our traditions, it’s always changing, and so our traditions need to change to fit into a changing world.”
CCD-NL’s Kasuri Project: The Concept of Heritage
In addition to our work preserving Ikats, CCD-NL is advocating for the preservation and development of similar interrelated textiles such as Japan’s Kasuri. Our team member Momoko Takayama has been continuing the work for our Kasuri Project conducting a series of webinars to spread awareness of Kasuri textiles, and was excited to share her thoughts and experiences.
What is Kasuri?
Initially we tried asking Momoko what exactly is Kasuri, but that was not as straightforward as we believed, Momoko saying how, “Kasuri is very broad, and isn’t even fundamentally Japanese; it’s based on using Ikat techniques, that we think, originated in Indonesia. To describe Kasuri, it is most accurate to say Kasuri is Japan’s unique take on Ikat, Japan’s interpretation of Ikat.”
“Ikat, Kasuri, and other similar textiles are all interrelated, and not only did they initially grow and develop off each other, over the centuries they each continued to change and influence each other. All these crafts and textiles are interconnected, it was and still is a constant give and take. Nothing is just itself, everything is connected. You can’t discuss Kasuri without considering the wider context.”
The Kasuri Project
“The Kasuri Project originated in 2019, and it was meant to shine a new light unto the practices and history of Kasuri. Here in the Netherlands there are zero displays of Kasuri materials, and it is not a textile in daily use here. That speaks to one of the fundamental differences between how Western and Eastern Cultures preserve their culture. In the West culture is preserved by being displayed in a museum, while in Japan for instance we preserve Kasuri by continuing to wear and use them in daily life.”
“I think this intersection is a great place where East and West can both learn from each other, and CCD-NL’s Kasuri Project is already in the perfect place to facilitate this exchange, preserving Kasuri as a cultural object while also facilitating its use in daily life.”
Webinars within and across cultures
We talked with Momoko on how we could achieve such a lofty goal, and she describe how, “So far to pursue our goal we have been hosting a series of webinars with Kasuri artisans, based on the past, present, and future. “
“Yesterday focused on the historical connections Kasuri has in Asia and Europe. Today discussed how to maintain these cultural connections. While our upcoming seminar Tomorrow will emphasize a sustainable focus when preserving heritage. Our current digital and technological era is changing how preserve and even conceive culture. So our guest speakers will demo the environmentally friendly techniques they use, which can still be linked to traditional Kasuri. Just like the webinars we’re doing for Ikat.”
“Right now our cultural preservation efforts are still quite separate, except the cultures really aren’t separate. I think the Kasuri project and CCD-NL are at the forefront of showing how interconnected Ikat and Kasuri are, and that’s just a single example.”
Get to know some Ikat Artisans! Part 3: With Marsa Fattu
Join us with this final view into the lives of just a few of the Ikat artisans we are working with here at CCD-NL. Marsa Fattu is the leader of the Pelestrian Ikat Rote-Ndao (PIRN) weaving group in Rote-Ndao, who we have been working with to help spread awareness of new techniques and technology to improve the lives and crafts of Ikat artisans.
Marsa is the leader of the Pelestrian Ikat Rote-Ndao (PIRN) weaving group in Rote-Ndao, and she focuses on crafting various textiles such as bags, shawls, and other home goods from the finished Ikat weavings, as well as handling much of the modern logistical work surrounding Ikat.
Feraldi: In your own words, as someone who works with them every day, what is Ikat to you?
Marsa: To me, Ikat is an art form, not just a craft or a skill, and it deserves to be preserved, it needs to be preserved. It’s not just art though, it’s also a cornerstone for our communities, and without Ikats they would crumble away.
Feraldi: So, what do you do as part of your community, what part do you play in making Ikats?
Marsa: Today, I mostly handle the outside concerns, so the artisans can focus on exactly that, their art. I help out with things like marketing, searching for sponsors, and other technical concerns. Also, CCD-NL has encouraged our artisans to move away from our usual chemical dyes
Feraldi: That’s interesting, and how is that going? I understand that there has been some challeneges convincing many artisans to move away from chemical dyes.
Marsa: The Ikat artisans are beginning to slowly recognize the benefits of natural dyes over chemical dyes. While the chemical dyes are easier and consume less water, they are also toxic. Most don’t even understand the risks of using the artificial dyes, while it may be more difficult at times, we are making strides in not only introducing natural dyes, but CCD-NL is finding ways to help make them more practical and affordable as well.
Feraldi: I think that’s great you’re making progress, but I am surprised the artisans are so hesitant. Didn’t they use natural dyes in the past?
Marsa: Yes, but it has been many many decades since then, most artisans today have used the chemical dyes their whole lives. Back when the artificial dyes were first introduced, naturally the artisans saw how it could make the dyeing faster and easier, while the health issues where completely unknown. In many ways now we are trying to return to those traditional dyes, and CCD-Nl is helping us find ways take advantage of modern resources to make using natural dyes more convenient and competitive in the market.
Feraldi: Now, I know a concern still on a lot of people’s minds around the world is Covid-19. How has the pandemic affected your and the other artisans work?
Marsa: It has had a huge impact. There are less tourist, our primary customers, and our sales have dropped drastically. This has lowered the prices of our Ikats. We are really struggling; nobody buys out Ikats now.
Feraldi: I’m really sorry to hear that, and I know many people can sympathize with your struggles. Have you had any ideas on ways to compensate?
Marsa: Thankfully we have, after attending some trainings with CCD-NL we are developing new Ikat patterns and motifs, in addition to providing a series of projects for our artisans to work on over the course of the pandemic. We are already beginning to see some promising results from these new designs, and are looking for more ways to apply new ideas into our traditional Ikats, and I hope these will reinvigorate interest in our community’s crafts
Feraldi: So it seems that in your community today, there is this push to synthesize the past and the future together? Would that be accurate?
Marsa: I’m not sure I can say for sure for everyone, but it does seem that way. We value our old way of life, but understand we also need to be willing to change with the times if we want to preserve it.
Feraldi: So on that note, where do you see your work moving towards into the future?
Marsa: I hope the issues surrounding the pandemic begin to improve soon. I hope that we will improve our relations to using natural dyes. I hope there will be more people interested in buying Ikats so our communities can flourish. It is hard though, we have no idea how to achieve these hopes.
Feraldi: Once again, I am sorry, but hopefully we can work together to help you solve those problems.
Marsa: Thank you.
CCD-NL’s Online Museum: Reaching more people with less
While Covid-19 has affected everyone’s life in different ways, at CCD-NL we have been inspired to find new more radical means of pursuing our goals of education, cooperation, and development. We spoke about the with our team member Lavinia Gandha who along with Amit Ben Ari and Brodhie Molloy are hard at work creating an online museum to Ikat, offering the cultural enrichment and international understanding of a museum, but available to more people than ever before.
Inspiration in adversity
We asked Lavinia where the concept of an online museum began, and she told us how, “A concept we all shared at CCD-NL for some time was that we could found a traditional museum dedicated to Ikat artisans and their crafts. It would give us a new platform where we could showcase just how great Ikats are and would be able to take the distant ideas of people on the other side of the world and make it more– what’s the word? More real. If you could see and learn what goes into making them it would reinforce the connection between the people who visit the museum and artisans all the way on the other side of the world.”
An ideal new platform for the past
“Despite the great concept though, the resources, funding, and expertise were far beyond anything available to us. Then when the pandemic began, and every workplace and industry began moving to online platforms, we realized that we could create our own online museum. With a virtual online museum we could lower the barriers of a museum; it would be both easier to build and more accessible to patrons as well. We could reach a broader target audience who could visit us from anywhere in the world. So maybe a traditional museum could still be one of our goals for the future in the long-term, but the virtual museum has unique advantages as well.”
The past, present, and future
“An online museum really represents a blend between the past, the present, and the future.” This idea was especially fascinating, so Lavinia elaborated more saying how, “The museum could showcase the history of Ikat as a craft going back generations with displays and historical information.
We could showcase the latest developments of the artisans, and how our efforts are changing how they work and the Ikats the weave.
Then the museum itself is entirely virtual and is helping not only to preserve this traditional craft but push it forward to people all over the world.
Become part of a changing future
If you are curious about seeing our online museum’s progress for yourself you can follow our development by subscribing to our bimonthly newsletter here. You can also support our other efforts to support the culture and development of Ikat artisans by following our social media here, or buying from our Facebook shop where all profits will go directly to artisan and Ikat development.
Get to know some Ikat Artisans! Part 2: with Syriat Tole
Syariat Tole is the chief of the Gunung Mako weaving group in Alor. She also plays a vital role in teaching and educating the next generation of artisans to craft Ikats, in addition to her work selling and marketing the finished Ikats while facilitating the efforts of the other artisans.
Feraldi: So as the chief of your weaving group, what kind of work are you doing typically?
Syariat: As chief, a big part of what I do is focused on passing and preserving our Ikat weaving. To do this I teach children- from young children all the way through high school- Ikat weaving. I want them to know the art of making Ikats, to tell the stories of the origins of our Ikats, to remember our patterns and designs, to understand what they mean.
Feraldi: I can really feel how important preserving Ikats are to you, what are some of the current obstacles you are trying to overcome regarding your Ikats?
Syariat: Here in Alor, we are looking at ways not only to preserve our traditional of Ikat weaving, but also trying to find ways to bring it into the future. I am doing a lot of work now to train and teach artisans to begin using natural dyes. We’re also trying to find new ways to sell and distribute our Ikats locally and even looking at international markets, thanks to CCD-NL’s network and resources.
During the pandemic I did my best to keep our sales moving by expanding locally to new customers in neighboring churches, mosques, and people with different clothing sizes than we accounted for in the past. Despite these efforts we still are seeing many artisans struggling financially, and not just the artisans but their children and families who can’t pay living and educational costs.
Feraldi: How do you feel about these changes and measures? Do you believe they are effective so far?
Syariat: I feel there is really no way to know. All I know for sure is I am doing everything I can to preserve our culture here in the present. Are these new ideas going to see success? I can’t say for sure. But what I can say is I have prepared the next generation to continue doing what I am doing now, and that’s what’s most important. That’s something I know will continue into the future. We all need to unite together.
Feraldi: I am sorry I made things so grim, but I’m sure we at CCD-NL will try our best to support your efforts as well. It’s like you said, we all need to unite together.
Syariat: Thank you, I am looking forward to what we make together.
Get to know some Ikat Artisans! Part 1: with Selviana B’oi do
In preparation for an upcoming live webinar with a few Indonesian Ikat artisans the Center for Development and Culture –The Netherlands’ Feraldi Ramadhana sat down to discuss daily life and some of the struggles traditional Ikat artisans are facing today, with our three part series. With special thanks to our team member Riha for her excellent translation work.
Selviana B’oi do
Selviana is not only the chief of the Wehor Hadomi Weaving Group in Belu, Nusa Tenggara Timur, but she also handles the majority of work maintaining her home and taking care of her family, like many Ikat weavers.
Faraldi: Selviana, why don’t we start off with just telling me a bit about the daily life of an Ikat weaver?
Selviana: Well, not only am I a weaver, but I am also a housewife. However, here there is often little distinction between being a weaver and a housewife; weaving is just something that the women of our community do to help contribute to our families.
Every morning I wake up and prepare breakfast, and then I start weaving. At noon I stop weaving in order to prepare lunch. After having lunch with my family, I continue weaving. Then the same with dinner as well. My life revolves between caring for my family and my weaving.
Feralid: I know to you this might seem obvious, but for the sake of our readers, what is Ikat for you?
Selviana: Ikat is a motif or a pattern that I need to weave, and each pattern has a meaning. For example, I weaved a motif of spearheads which symbolizes not only war, but also celebration. Before I could only weave this pattern, but recently thanks to training with CCD-NL I learned how to make new Ikat patterns. Recently, I combined old motifs with the new weaving pattern to create a new textile for a bride and groom at their wedding. I hope that they were happy wearing the Ikat I made for them.
Feraldi: That’s really interesting, and I’m glad our training has helped you. How much has your weaving changed since you starting working with us at CCD-NL?
Selviana: I used to weave only with the older styles my ancestors taught us, but after CCD-NL offered us the training, I can now create my own motifs and weave using new techniques. I am so grateful for that, it has really made a difference. Since the pandemic Ikat sales have not been very good, and the price has dropped. I’m not giving up though! I am determined to keep weaving and earn the money to pay for my children’s education
In addition to all this, CCD-NL has also helped by providing us with essentials we have needed through recent crises. We recently were struck with a cyclone, and you helped us by providing food, clean water, medicine, and other neccesities. Then later your Yarn & Dyes campaign from Geef helped provide us with yarn, dyes, a new water tank, and other essentials we need for our Ikat work. Without Ikat we would have no way to provide for ourselves, and so the Ikat materials were nearly as valuable as the necessities.
Feraldi: That’s amazing, but it leaves me wondering how had Covid-19 affected your life as an Ikat artisan?
Selviana: It has hit our sales hard.
Feraldi: Have you come up with any new ideas to try and get your business back in spite of the pandemic?
Selviana: I’m really hoping CCD-NL can help us with how we can market the new Ikats they have already helped us design and make. They are doing a considerable amount of e-commerce for us as well, and I am optimistic we will begin seeing results there soon.
Feraldi: I’m sure together we can find a way.
Selviana: I feel the same way.
Feraldi: Looking into the future now, what are some other problems that maybe we can try to help you with? Do you have any ideas on how we can work together to try and solve them?
Selviana: Recently, many of Wehor Hadomi Group’s members have left because there is a lack of materials during the dry seasons. In addition to the water needed during the coloring process, the dry season makes it difficult to collect plants and trees we use to make our natural dyes. The Tarum leaves to create the indigo color, or even just common mud to produce shades of black are just a couple examples of materials that are essential to making Ikats that are hard to obtain because of the drought. It won’t stop me though. I won’t stop weaving, and I only hope there will be more people to join me.
There is hope, though. Thanks to you at CCD-NL we now have water tanks as part of a better water harvesting system to collect as much water as possible when we have heavy rainfall in order to meet the demands for water during the coloring process. You have also helped us to pcure new yarn, dyes, and seedlings. I just wanted to take a second and thank you and your donors.
Feraldi: Well, you are very welcome. I’m sure everyone here just wants to see you and the other artisans succeed. With the help you have received so far, how do you see your work as an Ikat artisan developing from here?
Selviana: I don’t think the work will change, not that much at least. We have begun to see changes, from your support, and from the world, and even within our own culture. For now, we just have to keep weaving, and we have to keep passing this tradition on to the younger generation.
CCD-NL Ikat Platform for Culture Preservation and Sustainable Development
Julita Oetojo is finishing up her time as a part of the 2021 International Online Summer Course on Jogja World Batik City: Balancing Creative Economy and Heritage Saujana Conservation to Foster Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of her final examination she wants to share her experiences in the course hosted by the Center for Heritage Conservation Department of Architecture & Planning, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia.
Why take part in the course?
Julita joined the course as a board of advisor from CCD-NL and as an advisor from Pelestarian Ikat Rote Ndao (PIRN). PIRN is a member of CCD-NL Ikat Platform based in Indonesia #ccdnlikatplatform. She spends her time advising and coaching Ikat artisans, and believed registering for the summer course would further facilitate her efforts.
Elaborating further, Julita said, “I was interested in in the topic of balancing traditional heritage as part of the creative economy, as CCD-NL and PIRN aims to preserve the culture, the economy, and the creative industry of these communities while further reinforcing international relations. I found that many of the SDG’s targets for empowering the weaving community aligned with the CCD-NL’s and PIRN’s goals, including eliminating poverty, promoting gender equality, facilitating high quality work, and pushing for sustainable economic growth, just to name a few. The course seemed the perfect intersection of what I was already doing and what I hoped to do. “
A series of engaging and interesting activities
Julita described the course itself as, “Well it had a great variety of different activities: a series of online webinars, various e-public forum, and an assignment to write a paper on a specific topic of my choice. I chose to write about using online platforms supporting the creative economy towards sustainable development in a time of crisis, and unfortunately this past year gave me plenty of opportunities to study this, but hopefully my research can help prevent more crises in the future.
What I took from the course
“Overall the course was really helpful and I learned a lot. The international e-public forums had a great variety of different speakers and offered them a platform to share their ideas with us and with each other, and I think that alone is invaluable. Also, the mentoring stations and group discussions facilitated a further intermixing and sharing of ideas, allowing each participant to draw on more knowledge than any one person possessed.
I feel I’ve discovered so much through the course. Personally, I’ve added a considerable amount of knowledge and skills to my repertoire, as well as expanded my personal and professional network. If I need advice or a second opinion, that’s even more great people I can call on. Meanwhile, for the various organizations I am a member of I’ve learned how to facilitate further collaboration between distinct but aligned groups. I’ve seen the great steps that have been taken in preserving Batik crafts, and having them be declared by UNESCO as Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity 2019. This made me realized we can use these strides as a role model for Ikat as well. We can observe what worked and didn’t work in achieving this recognition for Batik, and not only imitate them, but even further improve upon these strategies.”
Expanding our mission
During COVD-19 pandemic CCD-NL Ikat platform actively preserving culture, sustainable development and empowering the Ikat artisans not only in Indonesia but also Ikat artisans in Japan and India through webinars, trainings, our e-shop with all profits going towards preserving culture, promotions in social media, crowdfunding, and disaster emergency relief via our various platforms. Follow along with our activities at www.ccd-nl.org or follow our hashtag #ccdnlikatplatform.
A brief history of CCD-NL: A talk with founder Yetty Van Der Made Haning
We sat down with our founder Yetty van der Made-Haning hoping she could provide for us an idea of why she chose to found the Center for Culture and Development – The Netherlands, and give anyone interested in joining or supporting our organization a better idea of who we are, and what we are doing.
Rooted in a legal tradition
Speaking of her background and work before founding the Center, Yetty described how, “I originally trained to be an international lawyer, with a focus on international studies. During my early legal career however, I quickly found more and more that I was more attracted towards the developmental side of my work, supporting the creation of flourishing communities. Working at various NGO’s and international organizations, including the UN Tribunal, I began to feel I could do more beyond just the scope of the existing law. I believed that the law could be used to further lift people up all around the globe.
Motivated by human rights
“Back in 2011, The University of Leiden announced a project on preserving cultural heritage, and I recognized that my legal work was stagnating. I just did not find the drive or passion in my legal career at that point. With some gentle coaxing from my boss at the time, I chose to accept the position. I simply needed the change, and was confident I could adapt to the new environment.”
We asked Yetty what it was about global development which drew her so much, and she replied how human rights lay at the core of everything she hopes to accomplish with the organization. “I understood we had to be very sensitive in dealing with various conflicts and local political levels. In many places where I began looking into there was a history of colonialization, so we had to be sure that we were, and are, very careful to respect the autonomy of the people we work with. If we don’t offer the people this level of respect, it only creates further tension with no way to move forward.
Discovering the Ikat
“My father, a cultural anthropologist, told me I had to start with a culture I was already familiar with, how intangible heritages were very important. With this in mind I chose to begin my new work in my country of origin Indonesia, trying to build new bridges socially, economically, and politically. Early on as I began working in this new field, I remembered from my youth my mother and grandmother weaving these beautiful Ikats, these amazing and intricate handmade textiles. I also remembered other artisans selling these same Ikats door to door, but upon returning as an adult they were nowhere to be found, and it was then I knew this apparent loss of cultural heritage was something I wanted to investigate further.
Before long after beginning my field work in Indonesia, I learned that the crafts, despite how precious they are to local cultures and economies, were rapidly disappearing.” Yetty described a wide variety of factors that were gradually chipping away at traditional Ikat production, including:
- The older generation passing away and their children and grandchildren’s lack of time or need for more profitable work.
- The environmental impact on Ikat production (water usage, cotton farming, dye production) was still a complete mystery.
- Ikats were no longer economically viable to individuals and their communities.
These were only a handful of the issues threatening traditional Ikat artisans. According to Yetty, “If there is no infrastructure to aid in the understanding and preservation of culture, then it will disappear. This was my inspiration to devote myself to preserving Ikat culture.”
The beginnings of CCD-NL
“Early on after discovering my passion to preserving Ikats, I did extensive research and networking in order to encourage the revivification of languishing traditional textile industries, not only in Indonesia, but Laos, Cambodia, India, and Japan as well.
During this period I was still doing work through Leiden University, and while they were a great source of early support and funding, their interest was more on the research and academic aspects of Ikat culture. While doing my field work in various countries I saw ways in which artisans could preserve their traditional way of life while remaining economically viable into the future. I recognized how Ikat’s history in the past and within colonialization, and how countries can learn from one another, connected people within their communities as well as with the artisans in these other countries. They represented a more cooperative cultural future through their shared connection in the past!
So while I greatly appreciated the good I was able to accomplish with the University of Leiden’s support, it was just not enough to satiate me. So the Center for Culture and Development – The Netherlands was born, meant to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage, maintained as a viable part of the economy. Culture can only be preserved if culture is maintained as an autonomous part of society. Not only this, but I hoped to further empower the people crafting these cultural objects, giving them the legal and economic platform they need to stand on the world stage.
Haha! There’s the human rights lawyer in me speaking up again.”
Moving into the Future
We asked Yetty what her hopes for the CCD-NL’s future were, “Well obviously, there’s still a lot to do regarding Ikats. Things like toxic chemicals, introducing natural dyes, and more research on making production economically feasible are all necessary. These initiative in addition to the continued documentation, cataloguing, and research into the crafts are all still ongoing into the foreseeable future. Not to mention getting the artisans the proper recognition they deserve via copyrights and lobbying for Ikats to be officially recognized as world heritage. Though, from this strong base I am interested into other avenues of both cultural preservation and societal development, but these other initiatives are all still in the early planning stage.
Already, there is so much more to do, but I see it as just another challenge. It all began as a five year project, but now I know that five years was never enough. We’re trying to create a new global culture where countries can cooperate to preserve their unique, yet interconnected, cultural heritage, and that’s something that will take time.”
If you’re like Yetty, and are finding yourself interested in Ikats, the development and preservation of traditional Ikat crafts, or just feel compelled by our message, feel free to check out our Website , Instagram and Youtube, and help us continue to do the great work we love.