So the children had placed 'see the monkeys' at the very top of my to do list in Bali. But at the very top of my own, was a visit to Threads of Life, the Indonesian Textile Arts Center.
"Threads of Life is a fair trade business that works with culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets we commission are made with local materials and natural dyes to an exquisite standard usually seen only in museums. We work directly with over 1,000 women on 11 islands across Indonesia, helping weavers to form independent cooperatives, to recover the skills of their ancestors, to manage their resources sustainably, and to express their culture identity while building their financial security."
In their storefront in Ubud, there is a wonderful display of the works they are preserving, as well as a great deal of educational material and history. It was a pleasure to see all of the weaving and natural dyes in such glorious finish products. They also offer classes, which I didn't quite manage to squeeze in enough time for, but you know, there is next time. I did, however, make my one big purchase here to bring home, as well as a few lovely palm leaf baskets. I knew that this would be the spot I felt good about spending my money in, and I wasn't disappointed when I walked in the doors. The only trouble was choosing something amidst all the beauty there. But I'm so pleased with what I brought home - a wall hanging that will always remind me of my time in Bali, and the amazing handwork and artistry of textile artists - on the other side of the world (in the last two photos above). This particular weaving features a design of human figures drawn into an ancestral chain. As I was told, "when one follows the path of the ancestors then the way is clear and the greatest harmony for all can be achieved."
Also incredibly important in my visit to Bali, was a morning spent at Bumi Sehat. With incredible gratitude to blog reader, and midwife, Stacy (so many lovely midwife Stacy's in my life!), for introducing me to the Bumi Sehat, and its founder, Ibu (mother) Robin Lim.
"Bumi Sehat means Healthy Earth Mother. We believe that access to quality healthcare and to kind, hygienic, culturally appropriate childbirth is a human right. We believe that each individual is an essential societal component of peace. By caring for the smallest citizens of Earth - babies at birth - we are building peace: one mother, one child, one family at a time. We are devoted to working in partnership with people to improve quality of life and to encourage peace.
Despite increasing numbers of tourists in Bali each year, these tourist dollars do not filter down to the average Balinese individual. This mass tourism has also resulted in a drastic increase in the cost of living; many Balinese struggle to pay for basic items like food, fuel, school fees, and especially healthcare for themselves and their families – and healthcare is often the first to be sacrificed. Unable to pay for health services, many families elect to go without care. This is where Bumi Sehat enters the picture. The Community Health Clinic has two birthing rooms, a postpartum recovery area, and three general health treatment areas. We provide a variety of weekly clinics, ongoing birth services, and 24-hour a day emergency health services."
Some of you might be familiar with Ibu Robin as a 2011 CNN Hero. You can see a wonderful talk she gave at TedxUbud here. Spending a bit of time at Bumi Sehat was such a highlight of my trip - the amazing women who work there were so kind and lovely....and oh, Robin. I don't know how to describe her except to say that she is the most gently powerful force of nature that I have ever met. I felt energized and inspired in her presence. There are more words and photographs to come from my time with Robin and Bumi Sehat, but those are tucked away for a future Taproot issue, FOLK, coming this fall. Until then, please do check out the work they are doing (and of course, give if you can) - not just in Bali, but all over.
As you might imagine, spending a bit of my time and resources on my trip with these people working so hard to secure sustainability for traditional textile artists, working opportunities for families, and gentle, safe, peaceful birth for all, was something I am beyond grateful for. And without a doubt, from my time with them, I am coming home with much more than the textiles now hanging on my walls, or the photographs of newborn babies in my album. Inspiration, energy, love and hope are with me too.