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Bali Losing the Thread

Baliís Endek Weaving Tradition in Danger of Disappearing

(3/30/2012) Kompas.com reports that the craft of endek-weaving, the traditional woven cloth of Bali, has become an endangered art form due to an inability to successfully pass this highly skilled craft onto future generations.

Bali’s younger generation is more drawn to modern trades, more attracted to working in shops than in spending long-days sitting behind a textile loom.

This declining interest in endek-weaving is occurring at a time when there is a popular resurgence in consumer interest in the unique and colorful cloths woven on Bali. Because of a lack of weavers, however, those ordering endek cloth must often wait for extended periods for orders to be fulfilled.

The owner of the Sekar Jepun Woven Cloth Center, Etmy Kustiyah Sukarsa, said: “We are having difficulties find weaver who are diligent and patient. It’s hard to invite young people today to become weavers. So, we are left to rely on the existing weavers and hope that customers will remain patient while we process their orders.”

Another weaving shop owner, AA Ngurah A Mayun Konta Tanaya, provided a similar assessment. Tanaya, who parents pioneered endek weaving with tens of weavers in Denpasar, has been compelled to close his weaving shops due to a lack of weavers.

Competition

In addition to the problem of finding new weavers among Bali’s younger generation, local textile shops face competition from imitation woven items made outside Bali. These “fake” endek pieces are typically machine-woven. Said Etmy: “There’s not much we can do with these false pieces of weaving which is not hand-made or that comes from outside Bali. We believe that those who understand textiles will be able to tell the difference between original Bali textiles and those that are not.”

Etmy is confident that Bali-made hand-woven textiles can compete both in terms of quality and price. A 2.25 meter long piece of endek can cost between Rp. 300,000 (US$33) to Rp. 1 million (US$111).

When a check was made with local tailor shop in Denpasar it was discovered that in order to meet growing demand for Balinese-style garments the shops are being forced to use ‘fake” Bali textiles in order to meet orders. Many of the orders for endek cloths are coming from offices in Denpasar where endek-style clothing is popular for uniforms and office wear.

The chairman of the National Handicraft Council for Denpasar, Selly Mantra Dharmawijaya, admitted that it is difficult to invigorate the textile sector due to the lack of weavers. According to her data, there are only 17 textile weaving centers still in operation in Denpasar as compared to some 200-textile centers in operation in 1980.