The history of these two pieces of Timor Leste clothing goes back to the ancient times when it was bartered with live stock and gold and silver ornaments. The special significance of the Tais remains in the fact that some kinds of symbols and designs are painted on them. The history of East Timor is reflected in the designs and the cultural importance of the various places also comes out through them.
Tais are made out of hand woven cotton and then various kinds of dyeing techniques are applied on it. Mostly East Timorese women involve themselves in the manufacturing of Tai and sometimes a piece of cloth can take more than a year to complete.
The Timor Leste clothing also has a connection with the Portuguese times and they were the first people to discard the traditional forms of clothing and bring in the modern styles into the market of Timor Leste clothing.
The tais has been used in East Timor as a unit of exchange, often for livestock or other valuables. In ceremonial use, the tais is usually worn along with feathers, coral, gold and/or silver. Still, the sale of tais has become common only in the last thirty years. Although small-scale commerce of tais is an important source of income for women, however, export is difficult and nearly all sales take place with foreigners. In recent years, the public textile market in the capital Dili has seen an influx of foreign-made weavings, which often look like tais and are sold (and made) more cheaply.
Weaving of tais is performed solely by women, with techniques passed down from generation to generation in an oral tradition. The activity often serves as a community gathering as much as a chore of productivity, and served as a rare form of self-expression in the restrictive environment of the 25-year Indonesian occupation.
Santa Cruz Massacre. The influence of textiles on the lives of women is reflected in the East Timorese expression "bringing a thread and bobbin" in reference to a newborn child.
During the occupation, Indonesian soldiers were a considerable market for tais weavers. In the 1970s, tais for the first time began to feature inscriptions, usually written in Indonesian. In the era of independence, tais artisans have begun specializing in customized weavings, as well as tais-like products such as handbags and scarves.
Since 1999 workers in NGO's and the UN bought tais to take home as gifts and mementos and new messages found their way into the tais in English and Portuguese as well as Tetun. A quite remarkable fact, given that most of the weavers are found in rural areas where they have not had the opportunity to learn how to read or write.
Many people wishing to assist East Timorese women develop income streams have imported tais for sale and assisted weavers and sewing groups to produce items such as purses, bags, cushion covers and baskets that are saleable in Australia and elsewhere. The selling of tais is rapidly moving off-shore as many of the people taking these initiatives belong to Local Government Friendship groups in Australia.
Designs Imagery often includes animals such as the crocodile, upon which the creation legend of the island is based. Geometric patterns known as kaif are also employed in most tais.
Styles of tais worn on the body are differentiated by gender: men traditionally wear the tais mane (or "man's cloth"), a single large wrap around the waist usually finished with tassels. Women wear the tais feto ("women's cloth"), a form of strapless dress woven in the shape of a tube. A third type known as the selendang, a slender cloth worn around the neck, has become popular in recent years.
ProductionUsing mostly cotton threads, the cloth is created during the island's dry season, almost entirely by hand. The use of cotton is a legacy of the Portuguese colonial era, when Timor was an important port for the trade in the material. Synthetic fibers like rayon, acrylic and polyester are becoming more common as they are imported more cheaply into East Timor. A single tais can take anywhere from several days to a year, depending on the complexity of design and variety of colors used.
Dyes are used to create bright colors in the tais; these are mixed from plants like taun, kinur, and teka. Other dyes are derived from mango skin, potato leaf, cactus flowers, and turmeric. Individuals skilled in mixing dyes are sometimes compared to alchemists, using traditional recipes for creating desired colors. Although colors carry different associations from village to village, red is often used predominantly, as it is connected to long life and courage, in addition to being the base of the East Timorese flag. When the United Nations became the administering power in East Timor from 1999–2002, tais markets increased production of blue fabrics to match that organization's trademark flag.
warp is manipulated. The pressure from the strap and the time required for the intricate designs on many tais produce significant pain for many women. During the 1999 wave of violence known in East Timor as "Black September", many tais weavers saw their tools and equipment stolen or destroyed. Recent years have also seen a decline in the number of young women learning traditional methods of tais weaving.
Regional variationsDesigns, colors, and styles of tais production vary greatly in each of East Timor's thirteen districts. In the enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno, Portuguese influence is most apparent, with floral and religious imagery predominating alongside subdued shades of black, orange, and yellow. In the capital city Dili, by contrast, bright colors and solid panels reflect the focus on tais commerce.
In the district of Ermera, black-and-white designs are most common, reflecting the royalty of the traditional leaders, who often lived in the area. The village of Manufahi produces tais with certain common animal themes, specifically the lizard and pig.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Sacchetti, Maria José. "Tais: The Textiles of Timor-Leste". Timor-Leste Government Tourism Office. 2005. Retrieved on 7 February 2008.
- ^ a b c d e f Niner, Sara. "Strong Cloth: East Timor's Tais". Craft Culture. 2 September 2003. Retrieved on 7 February 2008.
- ^ a b c d e f Delaney, Dawn. "Threads of Hope". Craft Culture. 7 May 2003. Retrieved on 7 February 2008.
- ^ a b c d "Hand-weaving: threads of hope". East Timor Women Australia. Retrieved on 7 February 2008.
- ^ Friends of Suai.
- ^ Suai Mediaspace.
- ^ Pride, p. 17.