For 18 years the Alola Foundation has been advocating for the rights of women in Timor-Leste, with a strong focus on education and economic development. The Alola Foundation understands that when you educate one women, you not only create economic opportunities for her, you generate education and health benefits for whole families and communities. Teaching nearly 80 young Timor-Leste women natural dying skills from a master weaver, was one of the unique capacity building opportunities provided by the Alola Foundation through the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program.
Over four days, almost 80 women were provided natural dyes training across the muncipalities of Bobonaro, Covalima, Lospalos and Baucau. Old master weavers provided knowledge and experience about natural dyes, and shared information about product quality, especially for tais; a traditional, culturally important, woven cloth created by women in East Timor (Timor-Leste). The collective groups had different levels of experience, so women were supported as they practiced these skills together, preserving their culture and heritage.
The women felt the training provided them a good opportunity to improve their capacity and knowledge and preserve the practice of creating traditional tais, despite Timor-Leste entering globalization. Nearly 80 women were taught how to carry on traditional weaving and dying practices and improve the quality of their products. it is hoped that the benefits of this training will improve not only the lives of these women but also the lives of their families and communities.
The dyes used to create the tais come from plants, and each municipality uses a different recipe for their colors depending on the dye plants that exist in each community. Before the training began the women were taught the benefits of the many plants used for making mordant (used to fix the dye to the fibre). These include symplocos (a flowering plant), noni (Morinda species), coral trees, the crown flower or biduri plant (Calotropis gigantea), the amethyst or datura, turmeric, candle nut and the kapok tree. The trainer then explained the dying process and stepped the women through many detailed topics including the rinsing and preparing of threads, the fibre oiling process (mordant) and the red, indigo and yellow colour process.
Some of the tais made by the women Alola is working with are available from Pacific Artisan. You can see them here.