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Alor Textiles in Past Publications. Part 2 - the 21st Century

The 21st century started with a plethora of publications about Indonesian textiles. A smattering of textiles from the cultures of Alor Regency appears in many of them, but the information is brief and not always accurate since the sources are not the weavers who produced the textiles or the previous owner but third parties.

Ruth Barnes’ German-language book on Ernst Vatter’s fieldwork and the artifacts that Vatter and his wife Hannah collected in the Solor and Alor Archipelagos in 1928-1929 is entitled Ostindonesian in 20. Jeharundert: Auf den Spuren der Sammlung Ernst Vatter (2004). Five textiles from the coast of Southwest Alor are illustrated in this volume, and four originate from the Klon or Kelon ethnic group.

In 2006, a French-language catalog of Swiss collector George Breguet’s Indonesian textile collection, La fibre des ancetres: Tresors textiles d’Indonesia de la collection George Breguet, presented a man’s wrap and a woman’s sarong from the Kui ethnic group from Southwest Alor.

Michael C. Howard remarked about the lack of documentation on Alor textiles in his survey of warp float-decorated textiles called A World between the Warps: Southeast Asia’s Supplementary Warp Textiles (2008). This survey features two textiles, a woman’s sarong and a man’s shawl from Southwest Alor and East Sub-Districts, respectively, that he acquired in 1990. He includes two warp ikat textiles from Northwest Alor in From Dashes to Dragons: The Ikat Patterned Textiles of Southeast Asia (2010).

Roy W. Hamilton states in his essay that is part of Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles, eds. Ruth Barnes and Mary Hunt Kahlenberg (2010) that textiles from Alor are curiously absent from publications about Indonesian textiles. He assumes that woven textiles found here came from other islands or were woven by people originating from afar if produced in the regency. This volume features a textile from Alor and one from Pantar.

The exhibit and its accompanying Portuguese-English language catalog, Woven Languages: Indonesian Ikat Textiles from the Peter ten Hoopen Collection, uses two examples of warp ikat sarongs to illustrate Alor Regency’s textile traditions. He increases the number of textiles representing the regency to three, with a probable fourth one in Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago (2017). ten Hoopen constantly updates his website,, with his latest acquisitions and related descriptions. Pantar textiles are some of the additions. Mr. ten Hoopen is applying other methods of analysis, such as magnification of handspun threads to shed light on the history of textile production in Indonesia.

Judy Achadi provides a similar approach to Alor textiles by featuring five men’s clothes in Floating Threads: Indonesian Songket and Similar Weaving Traditions (2015). This book features a couple of textiles from the collection of Museum 1000 Moko in Kalabahi, Alor Regency, and the rest are in private collections. One example belongs to Dr. Mariah Waworuntu who acquired it from a former Minister of Education. He received it on one of his missions to the regency from 1978-1982.

I may have omitted some publications about Indonesian textiles that might include Alor textiles. The information is most likely in the same vein as described above and in Part 1.

Emilie Wellfelt expands on the use of milkweed fiber and textile production in “The Secrets of Alorese ‘Silk’ yarn: Kolon susu, triangle trade and underwater women in Eastern Indonesia,” Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014. Wellfelt gives a brief background on textile production by the Alorese or Alurung cultural group of Umapura Village, Northwest Alor, where she conducted fieldwork for her Master’s thesis. The title of this paper reveals that its focus is milkweed fiber, but she did mention she collected over a dozen names for different types of sarongs. We yearn for her to publish this data with detailed descriptions.

Yulianti A. Peni and Linda S. McIntosh, the caretakers of the website, continued the study of the textiles of Umapura Village in “Rarely Documented Textiles: Tenapi of Umapura Village, Ternate Isle, Alor Regency, Indonesia,” in the May 2020 issue of Textiles Asia Journal. This article describes the ritual garments representing this community's eight patrilineages.


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