The 6th World Eco-Fibre and Textile(WEFT) Forum 2010
Last year I visited the exhibition ‘Woven Dreams’, an exhibition of Pua Kumba textiles from the Rumah Garie Longhouse in Sarawak, held in The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London. This was brought to my attention by Cliff Condell through the British Malaysian Society. It was inspiring, one of the weavers was demonstrating their technique and there was a display of wonderful textiles. I picked up a leaflet about the Society Atelier Sarawak and WEFT and noticed there was a Forum meeting in September 2010 in Kuching, Sarawak.
So when in September 2010 I found myself visiting my son in NZ and passing through KL I decided to try to go to WEFT, the 6th biennial Forum organised by Edric Ong. I am so glad that I did. They were the most welcoming group of textile professionals, artists and enthusiasts from Sarawak, and all over the world.
The Forum was held in Sarawak Tourism Complex (the Old Court House, Kuching) and there was an exhibition of Pua Kumba, the results of the competition for these was announced during the Forum, and a most tempting International Craft Bazaar. The theme of the Forum this year was Natures Colour Code. It was over 3 days and most professionally organised with inspiring speakers.
We heard of natural dyes of the Philippines, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Indonesia, Taiwan, Borneo, Korea, Thailand, India, Pakistan ,Sri Lanka Switzerland and France and efforts to maintain and reintroduce their use. Since chemical dyes were introduced to SE Asia the colour range used has been limited and natural dyeing has significantly declined. The recession in 1997 in Indonesia was instigative in reintroducing the use of Indigo, for economic reasons, after the use of chemical dyes for 100 years. Use of natural local dyes maintains the integrity and value of handmade textiles, promotes sustainability and reduces pollution. Problems of light fastness, reliability and wearability of the textiles were discussed. There were Ideas for growing crops by indigenous people as a source of income, and how they could be manufactured into reliable marketable products. Expertise was very openly shared.
It was great to hear from Edric how he had researched and re-discovered the plant in the rainforest which produces a yellow dye which used to be in Pua Kumba, and reintroduced it to the weavers in the Longhouse.
Of textiles we saw natural fibre textiles of an isolated Indonesian group the Orang Baduy, as contrast a new fibre developed from pineapple and silk in the Philippines and heard of research into ‘eco smart textiles ‘ at Herriot Watt University Edinburgh
By the end we agreed the theme which had developed was how to develop traditional designs using natural dyes and textiles which retained the integrity of the culture but produce a marketable product and made economic sense.
We were very well hosted with dinners at Kuching Golf Club, The new Borneo Convention Centre, where there was a wonderful fashion show with representation from many of the delegates, and an evening of entertainment and food at the longhouse in the Sarawak Cultural village.
This was a memorable time for me and I would like to thank the British Malaysian Society for bringing it to my attention and Edric Ong for such an excellent Forum.