Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Salaon and Bangkudu

During the Weaving Workshop, the participants learned about dyeing with natural indigo. In the Muara region, they use the plant locally called ‘salaon’.

Restuala, our guru, showed us a salaon branch.

Lightly dyed indigo yarns. It takes a long time and repeated dipping
to obtain the deep blue colour that was once so typical of the Ba

Afterwards we went looking for salaon at the edge of the lake.

Restuala showed the participants an old
textile dyed with natural indigo

The process of making the indigo dye takes several days. Restuala had prepared for the workshop by fermenting the indigo in advance. When we were present, his assistant removed the rotten leaves and branches from the soak water. The workshop participants were allowed to do the magical part of mixing ‘kapur’ or powdered lime into the water to experience the magical transformation from putrid green to beautiful blue.
Adding powdered lime to the soak water
Our blues were not as brilliant as we would have liked, but we dyed our yarn and cloth in the solution anyway. The material was cycled away from the body, hand over hand. I explained that the dye only turns blue after it comes in contact with oxygen.

Yarn and cloth are dyed by circulating it in the dye bath.

Afterwards Lasma referred to it as an “oh, ya” experience. In other words, she had finally seen the way it worked and she had satisfied a curiosity that had been growing. She felt confident that she would be able to replicate the process back home.

Then we turned our attention to red dye or ‘bangkudu’ (Morinda citrifolia). Restuala had arranged to have the roots of the plant available. These were chopped and pounded and then other ingredients added. We did not get to the point that we dyed Lasma’s fabric in the dye because it needed to be oiled first. The oiling process takes a long time if the dye is to work optimally. Instead we saw how some of Restuala’s yarn, that he had already begun to dye, received another application of dye.

Restuala said that he was looking for the Batak recipe and that he was using a recipe that he had received from Threads of Life in the absence of a Batak recipe. I ran off to search for one of the copies of Legacy that was in the village and pointed to the recipe in my book. It was such a glaring example of the need for my book to be translated. What a shame if it is not used in such revival activities!

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