I come from a small farming village in Tabanan in west Bali, but have lived in Ubud since I was in junior high school. For most of the 90s, I worked as a guide of cultural tours in Bali and to the remote islands of eastern Indonesia.
While leading these groups I saw the value of the traditional textile arts. Due to the many uses of traditional cloth -- as everyday clothing, ceremonial dress, rituals gifts, religious offerings, and shrouds for the dead -- explaining the textile arts to the groups we led became a powerful way of accessing the culture of any community we were visiting. The more I learned, the more I saw that the textile arts, and by extension the cultures we were visiting, were in crisis. People were struggling to maintain their cultures and identity in the face of modernization and globalization.
In 1997 I co-founded Threads of Life in Ubud as a fairtrade gallery to work directly with weavers and support cultural continuity. By 2002 it was clear the business could not support all we wished to do in the field, and the Bebali Foundation was established to support sustainable resource use and cooperative development in the communities where Threads of Life worked. Both organizations now work with over 1,000 women weavers in 40 cooperatives on 11 islands across the archipelago.
One of the Bebali Foundation's central activities is the research, documentation and teaching of traditional natural dye recipes. This is to both save traditions and safe-guard incomes for the weavers. And one of the main functions of Umajati Retreat is to support this dye work. Fifteen percent (700 square meters) of the property has been made into the foundation's research garden as both a living archive of dye plants and a source of materials for our dye experiments. Even if you don't stay at Umajati Retreat, please come and see our botanical dye plant garden.