A while back, I promised to tell you how I found out about Timor-Leste, but if you have read our purpose, you might already know that… and it was Luke’s passion that inspired me and made me love the Timorese people even more.
When he first came from Timor, Luke (my then friend, now husband ❤️) brought me a cleverly hand-made wooden crocodile and a tais… don’t worry, I wouldn’t have known what tais meant either, if it was not for the most colorful and beautiful woven cloth that I was holding in my hands.
Tais is a traditionally woven cloth created by the women of Timor-Leste. They are used for ceremonial and home interior ornament, given as gifts, and worn as clothing.
Tais are literally woven into the culture and heritage of the nation. They are made using mostly cotton, a legacy of the Portuguese colonial era. The cloth, made almost entirely by hand, is created during the island’s dry season using a weaving loom. A single tais can take anywhere from several days to a year*, depending on the complexity of design and variety of colors used.
The bright colors in the tais are created using traditional dying methods. Colors are made from plants like taun, kinur, and teka, while others are derived from mango skin, potato leaf, cactus flowers, and turmeric.
Although colors carry different meanings from village to village, red is a predominant color, as it is generally connected to longevity and courage*, and is the base color of the Timorese flag.
*information gathered from Sacchetti, Maria José 2017, ‘A Woven Language: Tais as an Expression of Timorese Culture Identity’
Remember the wooden crocodile… Do you know what the crocodile means in the Timorese culture? In another letter, I’ll tell you what I know 💌