Alola Australia

Women’s group promotes traditional tais methods

Alola Esperanza

Alola Media image sourced from Fundasaun Alola:

Spinning natural cotton into yarn by hand is slow & takes a lot of time, but produces something special…
The Dili Weeky featured this article: “Women’s  group promotes traditional tais methods” ~ written by Paulina Quintão, TDW

Bobonaro women’s collective Tais Feto Buka Rasik is trying to preserve the traditional techniques used for making the colorful Timorese hand-woven cloth, known as tais.
Although there are now many cottons varieties to choose from, Tais Feto Buka Rasik Coordinator Margarida Valente Cardoso said the group preferred to use local cotton and natural dyes as these were better quality and were used by their ancestors. She said natural dyes were made using bark and the leaves from orange and betel nut trees.


“It is our culture to make original tais as it derives from our ancestors,” said Cardoso in her office at the Alola Foundation in Dili. Once the cotton is harvested in the field, it is then dried it and the seeds are removed using a cotton gin machine. After that the cotton is made into yarn and the thread is dyed using traditional ingredients.


Cardoso said a large tais could take up to five months to make, starting from the harvest of the materials until its completion. Tais was traditionally used for ceremonial occasions, clothing and decoration, but is now made into a wide variety of modern-day handicrafts such as handbags, jewelry and cushion covers. Many tais weavers now use synthetic dyes and cottons over the more time-consuming and labor-intensive traditional techniques.


However, Alola’s Coordinator for Women’s Economic Development, Jose Sabino, encouraged women’s groups to maintain traditional techniques. He said tais made using imported cotton was often poorer in quality and had little economic value compared to those that used original materials. “Even though it takes [more] time, it has high market value because many people prefer to buy the original one rather than the import,” he said. According to Sabino of the more than 50 groups that received training in making natural dyes, 32 continued to use traditional methods, although some used imported cotton.