Have you ever wondered where these beautiful sarongs come from that you can buy in Kuta, Bali? Sarongs have a long tradition in Indonesia, and if you want to know more about how they are done you may want to visit Sukarara Village in Lombok one day.
This village is a cooperative for weaving goods, around 45 minutes outside of Mataram on the island of Lombok. Weaving has a long tradition in Sukarara: entirely in the hands of the female villagers, this craft has been handed down over generations from mothers to daughters. Young women need to master the art of weaving before they can marry and start their own family, so there is no easy way out even in this modern day and age!
When you visit the village you are guided past the showroom at the entrance to the village and into the village proper.
Everyone around here is very busy. Weaving women can be seen on all the front porches of the houses, and together with the guide you can watch them operate the simple wooden looms and ask them questions along the way. When I say simple it means it’s not a modern loom of any kind, but it doesn’t mean that you and I would be able to produce a single piece of cloth on these looms! The whole process, so flawlessly done by these Sukarara women requires years of practice, and the whole set-up looks indeed utterly confusing to the untrained eye.
The guide shows us around the different areas of the village, a great opportunity to not just look at the weaving women but at the village in general, which looks really pretty with the traditional woven walls and bamboo structures, the colourful sarongs hanging out to dry, the tubes hanging from the roof that serve as bee hives, the geese feeding around a trough.
There’s a couple of things we learn along the way. For example, the more difficult the design the more likely that the woman will weave on her own front porch where she is undisturbed and doesn’t have to move the loom. In a central area of the Sukarara village we find a shaded raised platform which is the place where everyone else is weaving.
I have to say, I admire the way these women can sit on the hardwood floor for hours, just supported by a bamboo stick which they bind behind their backs for some support. It doesn’t look particularly comfortable, but these women don’t seem to mind too much.
The sarongs produced at Sukarara village are proudly made from naturally dyed yarn – cotton, mostly, but also silk, silver silk and gold silk. The colours are produced using natural materials such as saffron for yellow, indigo for blue, and so on.
After the tour of the village you can return to the showroom for a hands-on demonstration on the traditional Indonesian dress. One of the assistants here will be helping you into a traditional costume consisting of a top with short sleeves which you pull over your head, a skirt which you wrap around your lower body, a scarf which you wrap around the sarong like a belt to hold it in place, and lastly a sash to add some colour. If that sounds pretty uncomfortable, remember that it’s going to be some 30 degrees and that you have just wrapped yourself in multiple layers of thick clothing. So a quick photo in front of a traditional Sasak house and then strip, strip, strip.
Sukarara village’s showroom is a great place to buy some really nice handcrafted sarongs, either for yourself or for your loved ones at home. The collection is huge and there are different colours, sizes and designs to choose from. As a general rule of thumb, the more intricate the design the more expensive the item you may wish to buy. The good thing is that you can see where the sarong has been produced and you meet the people who will benefit directly from your purchase.
In my view, a visit to Sukarara village offers some great insights into the Indonesian culture and you can also buy a great gift here for yourself or for someone you love.
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