Meeting Mama Emiliana and Other Handicraft Makers
One of the first people I met after arriving in Flores Island was Mama Emiliana. It was new to me to hear the word ‘Mama’ as a way to call older ladies. It was always Mama + their name. There is a special connection that forms when I can say Mama in front of their names. It quickly removes the layer of ‘stranger’ and instead into someone of familiarity.
So the first ‘Mama’ I met was Mama Emiliana who was a handicraft maker. I will remember Mama for her bigger than life smile, although she often tried to cover her smile with her hand, it wasn’t long before it was gleaming in our conversation.
If you’re wondering why I’m in Flores, besides trying to escape everything about the city, it’s because I’m discovering a project about local tourism development.
The project created stands for:“Creative Entrepreneurship for Accelerating Tourism and Local Economic Development”
INDECON, which stands for Indonesian Ecotourism Network, is the organization I am travelling with to these villages. INDECON is supported by the European Union to help train the women with natural dyes, as well as the process of production and selling.
TA = means land in Bahasa Indonesia and NIPA = is the former name of Flores Island, and together they form “TANIPA“, the brand name of the naturally dyed products made by local women of Tololela-Inerie.
When the women aren’t farming, they use their time to weave products. From scarves to accessories, TANIPA, creates products that are made by hand and sold to the tourists who visit the village.
What makes Mama Emiliana’s story a story worth sharing is because of the hard work she has done to revive the process of using natural dying for her hand-woven products. What Mama Emiliana told us is that she feels grateful for attending the training sessions. She realizes that there is an “added-value” in using natural dyes that can be sold at a much higher price.
While natural dye has long been a part of the culture, it was being threatened by the use of chemical dyes, both because of costs and time, but what Mama Emiliana has done is proudly make her products with natural dyes.
Mama Emiliana, with INDECON’s support, has even tried to produce hard to find colours for natural dyes. While indigo blue can be more readily made, colours like yellow and black are incredibly challenging.
Mama Emiliana’s face is kind but her mind is clearly determined to accept the challenges of innovating with natural dyes.