Bali and Nusa Tenggara boast abundant creations of woven cloths dyed using plant extracts that not only produce beautiful long-lasting colors, but also outshine those created with chemical colorants. Although some of the fabrics were made between 75 to 100 years ago, they still exuded intense colors, such as the 100-year-old tais weto fabric from Manlea village in Belu regency, East Nusa Tenggara.
The hand-woven cloth, dyed using extracts of mengkudu (a small tree found in forests), still dazzles, with a deep red color dominating its stripe motif. The Biboki sarong, made 75 years ago, shows a combination of deep indigo and red in stripe motif. Women in the countryís eastern province usually wear these types of fabrics for major traditional ceremonies, including weddings and funerals.
Fabrics from East Nusa Tenggara have various motifs reflecting different meanings and levels in the society. "Kings and queens usually wear the hinggi kombu. Hinggi means fabric, and kombu means mengkudu," said Ignasio Hapukaran Java, a native of Nusa Tenggara. Fabrics with animal motifs are also widely used.
"Horse and rooster motifs reflect the power of a king," he said. Another unique motif is the lobster, which depicts reincarnation. "This motif reflects our belief that humans will live another life after their death." Other East Nusa Tenggara traditional fabrics are the baranusa woven cloth originating from Alor, the 50-year-old sabu sarong from Sabu island, and the five-year-old Pahikung sarong from Rende, East Sumba regency.
West Nusa Tenggara also has its own Pahikung sarong made in Sumba regency, which has a different motif with a red and black dominant. Sumbaís laupahudu sarong, with its distinctive motif, was also on display. Besides Nusa Tenggara fabrics, Baliís famous gringsing cloth from Tenganan, as well as silk woven clothes made in Klungkung, Karangasem and Nusa Penida also drew the attention of visitors.
Nusa Penida offers kain cepuk and saudan cloths, and another type of woven cloth with a rectangular-shaped motif called rangrang. The coloring process takes several days, said Sariat Libana, a native of Alor who specializes in coloring threads. "First, we extract the plants and soak the thread in the liquids. We use mengkudu to make the red color, turmeric for yellow, and different kinds of leaves for the green color," said the 40-year-old woman.
"If the color isnít intense enough, we soak the fabric another seven times," she said, adding that coloring silk threads took longer than cotton, because the dyes quickly faded when applied to silk.