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Tenapi Patola of the Kakang Lineage, Umapura Village, Ternate, Northwest Alor Regency

Written by Ms. Yulianti Peni in Indonesian. Translated and revised by Linda S. McIntosh

Umapura is one of five villages on Ternate, a small island located in the Pantar Strait adjacent to the Bird’s Head Peninsula or Northwest Alor Island, East Indonesia. Alor Regency’s population of 200,000 speak 25-30 languages and dialects. The residents of Umapura belong to the Alurung group, also known as Alorese. This group consisting of approximately 25,000 people living in the coastal areas of West and North Pantar Island, Northwest Alor, and Buaya and Ternate Islands. Umapura is also the sole Muslim village of five settlements on Ternate Island. The inspiration for this island’s name is Ternate of North Maluku. One of Ternate’s sultans sent teachers to Alor’s coastal kingdoms to spread Islam in the late 16th century. The island was formerly called Nuha Being or Big Island.

Umapura’s population organize into eight suku or patrilineages. (Each patrilineage consists of several clans that recognize the same founding father.) Each suku possesses a ceremonial house or uma that is central to its rituals, and this ritual dwelling is where a suku stores its sacred heirlooms. Members of Umapura’s eight patrilineages also reside on neighboring Buaya Island. The same lineages and textile styles exist on both Buaya and Ternate. (There are also similarities in the suku identity markers in other Alurung areas and will be described in the future.)

Alurung women weave cloth on backstrap looms, and warp ikat is the primary decorative technique. Weavers previously cultivated cotton and ingredients for some natural dyes. They acquired additional cotton and other dyestuffs via trade. A rare occurrence today, but women of Umapura used to spin giant milkweed fiber with cotton to produce a silk-like yarn. Presently, cotton and other thread types are available in the local markets, but some women still grow cotton and use plants and marine life as natural dyestuffs.

The sarung or tubular garment is called kafate in general and tenapi when referring to a specific type of sarung is the traditional attire of both Alurung men and women. Tubular garments with distinct design formats and warp ikat motifs serve as identifying markers of membership in the different suku. Members of the same lineage wear this identity marker for important rituals. Examples serve as gifts of exchange and shrouds. It is difficult to find many old textiles in Alor since they often accompany the deceased to the cemetery. The lack of raw materials due to environmental conditions and lack of arable land for cultivating cotton and dyestuffs led weavers to acquire additional materials via trade. Handwoven textiles not only possessed social-cultural value but also economic value.

The tenapi patola baololong sambung is the group identity marker of the Suku Uma Kakang or the Elder Brother Lineage in Umapura. Depending on the Alurung dialect, patola is also pronounced fatola and watola. The garment’s name is sometimes shortened to tenapi patola or just patola. The baololong sambung or connecting banyan tree leaves motif resembles the lattice pattern that fills the central field of different types of patolu. Other designs, also inspired by Indian trade cloth, may decorate this section.

The identifying characteristics of a tenapi patola baololong sambung are:

  1. The tenapi patola consists of three panels of fabric.

  2. The color of the ground fabric is reddish-brown produced from dry morinda roots when natural dyes are used. Indigo top-dyed with morinda would create a purplish-black color that is the background of the central panel and the various-sized warp ikat bands.

  3. The central panel is decorated with a repeating pattern that was inspired by Indian trade textiles, mainly the patolu or double ikat–decorated silk. The Alurung and other cultures of Indonesia desired patola (plural of patolu) as symbols of prestige. These became sacred heirlooms that were once stored in the uma suku or lineage communal house.

  4. The outer panels are identical. The largest band of warp ikat contains the same motif as the central panel. Different colored stripes alternate with different sized rows of warp ikat designs. The weaver may choose coconut tree fronds, boats, or broken sirih fruit motifs to adorn these bands, for example.


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