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Songket weavers from Bali seek recognition and support

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-01-29 22:15:00 – Jakarta

Klungkung is of the smallest in Bali Province is famous for preserving the weaving of songket, gorgeous cloth hand-woven in silk or cotton, with intricate patterns formed with silver or gold threads. The metallic threads stand out against the background cloth to create a shimmering effect. In the weaving process the metallic threads are inserted in between the silk or cotton weft (latitudinal) threads.

To Balinese Hindus, songket is seldom used. The cloth is only used occasionally, such as during weddings or metatah (teeth-filing) ceremonies. Besides being heavier, songket is pricier and requires special treatment.

At Gelgel village, one of Bali’s centers of handmade, woven fabrics, there are three generations of weavers working on songket. One of the youngest weavers is Ni Wayan Sekarini, 25, who each day takes her three-year-old son with her to work at a shop owned by I Ketut Mustika.

Sekarini, although does not make much money but likes weaving as it was fun. She is more interested in weaving endek [Balinese single ikat cloth] because it’s lighter than songket. To weave a 1.75 meter x 0.5 meter piece of songket ,she needs a month time for which an amount of Rp 500,000 [US$41] is paid.

One of the older weavers is Ni Wayan Sumarni, 43, who has weaved for 30 years. Sumarni likes to see woven fabric used not only for clothing, but also for shoes, bags or pillow sheets.

Gusti Made, 70, is one of the oldest weavers in Gelgel. She works for Endek Dian’s, also owned by Mustika. Made’s role requires patience as she organizes the threads used for the weaving loom.

Different senior weavers do other “serious” jobs such as nulak, which is spinning the yarn on a spinning wheel.

Mustika said Gelgel should have been decorated uniquely, like art villages in Java, to make it easier for visitors to find, and spoke of the need to produce informative guides on the village.

Due to the unorganized nature of Gelgel, Mustika said small industries had to develop on their own.

They have to market and introduce their products so that tourists know there’s a weaving center in Gelgel. They never have exhibitions for Klungkung’s products, when in fact there’s many weaving workshops, who has expanded her mother’s woven products workshop.

The island’s weaving industry has the potential to grow in the province’s villages. Domestic demand is growing, but they’re sometimes overwhelmed by the limited number of weavers.

Besides Gelgel, other weaving centers are in Sideman, Karangasem and Nusa Penida.

State-owned airline Garuda Indonesia used to give aid and training to villagers to develop the industry.

Observers say that Balinese woven products have a bright future, but weavers in Klungkung do not receive support from the regional administration.

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