Stephanie Brookes writes about Pejeng Kangin, a resilient weaving village in Bali outside Ubud, Indonesia, that offers a “pay forward” scheme to buy works that help them survive the lockdown
The weavers of Bali are dusting off their looms in a small traditional village just outside Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. In the village of Pejeng Kangin, a long-forgotten artisan craft is coming back.
This is just one of three recent village initiatives. It all started when David Metcalf, a local ex-pat originally from New Zealand, went to his Banjar (local village council) and asked what he could do to help during the COVID-19 crisis. The village leader, Made Astawa, and David agreed on some early priorities, and David sprung into action. He teamed up with part-time resident, Suzan Badgley from Canada, to set up a fund to help out. They sought donations a wider circle of friends who love Bali plus business colleagues, and the word spread.
Made identified employment creation as a first priority. David had heard a story some time back that one of the weavers of Pejeng Kangin used to make handwoven silk and cotton brocade for the daughter of Suharto (President of Indonesia 1967-1998). He went on a hunt and did indeed meet the master weaver, Ibu Agung and also discovered Ibu Klemik and Apel Murtini. It turns out there was not just one, but three very gifted and talented weavers in the village. There was agreement that the women would share their weaving skills and knowledge with other women in the village and teaching would commence that week. Those old looms reappeared from hidden corners and saw the light of day, yet again.
Once the word went out, a number of local women immediately showed an interest. With the help of the donations, extra looms were acquired, and the women bought cotton and silk thread at the Klungkung Markets. Just two weeks later, Pejeng Kangin had re-established its ikat cottage industry. Twelve women are now clacking away on their looms in the village six days a week.
Ibu Putu was already heading up the village Women’s Rice Community (KWT Manik Mertasari) but happily took on the new role of chief of the weaving circle. She came up with a novel idea. If you want an ikat, you are asked to “pay it forward” at the time of ordering so the weavers can buy the materials they need to get started. Ibu Putu can send you photos, and videos as your ikat progresses. Once completed, your ikat, perhaps a table runner, sarong, shawl or wall hanging can be shipped to you. Better still, when Bali opens for tourism, you can come directly to the village and meet the weavers in person and collect it.
Balinese women have always been resourceful and creative in difficult times. Ibu Putu, for example, also had a thriving cooking school called Ubud Village Plate which linked tourists with local families. That business is on hold for now, but it seems she can put her hand to anything. She is clearly relishing her work with the weaving circle. As she explained, “We all think it’s important to keep the weaving tradition alive. But, more than that, we really need jobs. Our husbands are out of work. Most of them were drivers or hotel workers or worked in cafes and restaurants. We must step up to the mark now.”
Local Food Packages
The next issue Made and David decided to tackle was food. Almost every family in the village, 180 in all, has close to no income and there is an urgent need for food staples.
Donations to date have enabled the purchase of supplies, and the Banjar delivered 170 packs with rice, noodles, cooking oil and eggs to every household last week. Twenty local volunteers went out on foot with a list, every home that needed help was ticked off, and no one was left out. “That is very important,” said Made, “If we give to one, we give to all. We live by adat (traditional) law, and this is our way”.
Working with Scholars for Sustenance, the village has also now employed 44 cooks. They make up a hundred fresh food packs every day. These are hand-delivered to Indonesians living in difficult circumstances in makeshift shacks and kos (boarding) accommodation, or on the streets in Kuta and Denpasar. Many lost their jobs in the tourism or construction industries and have no means of renting decent housing with a kitchen where they can cook. In fact, they cannot even afford one nourishing meal a day and have run out of savings, with the average worker only having had two weeks savings in reserve.
Many of these workers are from Java, Sumba, Flores, Papua and other islands but cannot get back to their villages. They rely on community projects like the one based in Pejeng Kangin, which in turn also benefits the village. Produce for the food packages is provided by local farmers, local cooks prepare the daily food packages, and local drivers help to deliver them to people in need.
How can I help?
To keep the project going we need to raise $15,000. this keeps 44 cooks employed to feeds 100 people a day – the most needy in Bali. With over one million out of work in the island’s tourist industry and months to go before the economy looks up, hardships are expected to continue.
If you can, please support and donate and join the kind souls who have already helped with early donations. thank you and your donation is very much appreciated. The weavers also need orders, so please consider pre-ordering your beautiful hand-crafted ikat. We have already shipped to Singapore, Australia, USA and Canada. You can be part of the solution and, by re-establishing a cottage industry with such strong cultural significance in the village these benefits will live well beyond the life of the pandemic. 100% of the donations go to these Banjar-led initiatives.
David, who is a local professional photographer, goes out to the village daily and documents the different stages (photos and video) of all three initiatives to keep the donors up to date and ensure accountability. You can follow this on the website: www.togethernessproject.net
David commented, “I believe there is always a way to turn a negative into a positive and, with all the negative news about COVID, which can really drag people down, this is a great example of embracing a positive attitude and a win-win solution. When Balinese and non-Balinese work together, amazing results can be achieved.”
Updated 16 October 2020
Story by Stephanie Brookes: www.travelwriter.ws
Banjar Village Support Facebook Page – Togetherness Project: Covid-19 Relief Fundraiser for Bali includes photos and video uploaded weekly, and donor page
Donate by IDR Bank Transfer: If you wish to donate directly to IDR local bank account, please contact Made Astawa & David Metcalf at email@example.com
Local Balinese YouTube interview channel
Weaving orders: order your scarf, sarong, table runner, ikat, wall hanging or bed runner with Wayan Ellen and Putu at – firstname.lastname@example.org or WA +62 817 4773 619 (Wayan Ellen)
Head of Banjar Pesalakan: Made Astawa: WA +62 812 3960 3177, email: email@example.com
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