The Foundation Tewuni Rai on the island of Savu in the Lesser Sundas carries on an ancestral weaving tradition which is entirely in the hands of women. Traditionally the island social structure was based on two maternal lines. Skilled weavers have a mental library of the motifs specific to their mothers’ lines. They care to pass on this information which they reproduce on their handlooms, keeping alive a very unique knowledge among societies of Indonesia. It is essential that these rich and distinctive traditions and techniques do not vanish,
Their warp ikat textiles use natural dyes only. The leaves of the indigo plant give all shades of blue to black and the roots of the morinda tree provide nuances of red. Homegrown cotton is still handspun by elderly women.
On simple back tension looms Tewuni Rai weavers produce fine tubular cloths (sarongs) hip-cloths (selimut) and shoulder cloths (selendang) for their own use and for textile lovers. They also weave smaller ikat cloths with heraldic motifs. Each of them has a story and a history so that one can read the island’s past while looking at its textiles which are very much the ‘fabric’ of the society.