Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
In the 1980s, the villagers – along with the assistance of the German priest, Pater Bollen – established a cultural cooperative called Sanggar Bliran Sina with the goal of preserving and promoting local dance, music, ikat weaving, and other handicrafts.
Under the enthusiastic leadership of Daniel David, a young man from Watublapi, Bliran Sina has turned into a well-established cooperative of more than 40 members, who support each other in financial, educational, and health issues. Furthermore, Bliran Sina’s outside orientation and collaboration with Fair Trade organizations, such as Threads of Life, make it possible for Watublapi ikat to find their way to collectors all over the world.
Visitors to Watublapi who register in advance can be sure of a warm welcome by the members of Bliran Sina with traditional dance and music performances. If you dare, you can even taste the famous sirih pinang (betel nut chew) which is part of the Sikkanese tradition for welcoming guests. Believed to strengthen the teeth and have a stimulative effect, it is very popular among elderly women. Do not worry though – the red stain on your teeth disappears within a few hours.
Bliran Sina also gives you the opportunity to observe all different steps of the traditional ikat weaving process, from dyeing the threads through to the final product. As well as the cotton, all the dyes used in Watublapi are handmade and come from plants in the villagers’ own gardens – giving the ikat its distinctive local touch of blue, yellow, red, brown, and green.
Visitors with a profound interest in ikat weaving will have the opportunity to join an ikat workshop in Watublapi. The Bliran Sina weavers will teach you to the skills of this fascinating handicraft.
If you contact Daniel David (+62 81339463561) before your visit, Bliran Sina members can organize a weaving demonstration, lunch, as well as dance and music performances for you.
How to get there
Watublapi Village is located east of Maumere. You can reach the village easily by car or motorbike, since the road is in a good condition. About 7km from Maumere, pass Geliting Market. About 100m from the market on the right, there is a sign to St Gabriel Hospital. Follow the road, which passes through several villages. After about 13km you will arrive in Watublapi, with its bamboo entrance gate on the left.