Discovering the Tradition of Tenun Lurik in Jogja
Yogyakarta, Indonesia is a city-state on the island of Java that’s steeped in ancient tradition. The state is still ruled and heavily influenced by a Sultan whose family has been overseeing the region for nine generations. Many aspects of Jogja, as it’s fondly nicknamed, have taken on a modern style as you can see in the slick espresso bars, eco-tourism companies and contemporary shopping malls. But other traditions are performed exactly as they were hundreds of years ago. Weaving, or tenun as it’s called in Indonesian, is one of these time honored traditions.
Our journeys took us to Jogja many times and gave us a deeper understanding of how textiles are intertwined with the city’s history. A distinctive type of striped woven fabric called lurik is worn by the Sultan’s guards, as well as used to make matching family outfits for special occasions like weddings. On our frequent visits to the weaving workshops we listened to the shuttles running back and forth through the looms, saw women spinning thread with upcycled bike wheels and toured the dyeing area where they boil mango skins and mahogany to produce natural colors. The rigorous dye production, time consuming dyeing, drying and spooling of the fibers and then meticulous threading of the loom are all thoughtfully completed before the weaving even begins. It’s a process that most of us in our fast paced, results-driven lifestyle don’t have the patience to even fathom.
While facebook and instagram are now worldwide institutions, business websites and online retailers are less customary in these types of traditional, family run businesses. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in Indonesia, where everyone seems have a full time job and a side hustle. When Joel and I approached makers to discuss expanding to an international market, we were met with eager interest and enthusiasm. We were in awe of these business owners who, though living a simple life, were fearless and optimistic with their business endeavors. It was this adventurous spirit, as well as our love of textiles and infatuation with the traditions of Java that inspired us to start Raya Exchange.