The weaving home industry typical of West Manggarai that is developing in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) requires youth regeneration so that they can continue the skills inherited from their ancestors. The reason is, at this time, the weaving craftsmen of NTT are quite old.
"Our hope is not about business but how to maintain weaving because the age of the crafter is 35-60 years old, there has been no regeneration," said weaving craftsman Hironimus Viktoriamus Jenamu in South Lembor, West Manggarai, NTT, Tuesday (15/6).
The determination of the capital city of West Manggarai Regency, namely Labuan Bajo as a super priority and premium destination to grow the property, restaurant, and tourism industries, has made the younger generation switch professions to this sector. In addition to needing young weavers, craftsmen also face the challenge of competition with textile dye woven products.
West Manggarai weaving uses natural dyes sourced from plants, so the price tends to be more expensive than textile dye weaving. The price of natural dyed woven fabric is Rp. 1.5 million per sheet measuring four meters long and 75 centimeters wide, while synthetic dye woven is priced at Rp. 500 thousand per sheet.
The specific market segmentation targeting the upper middle class makes West Manggarai weavers have to struggle to market their wastra products. Digital sales methods through social media and market places have become the choice of crafters amid the declining purchasing power of consumers to outlets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, adequate internet access is only located in Labuan Bajo. Internet access outside the area is still a challenge for local industry.
Head of the West Manggarai Association of Business Groups (Accounts) Maria Srikandi said that currently there are only three weaving groups with a total of 10-15 people per group. He explained that the weaving business has not yet become the main occupation of residents in West Manggarai, so that in terms of production it is still limited. However, his party continues to strive to foster the spirit of the craftsmen to continue to maintain their weaving business.
"This is still a side job, only a few people focus on weaving," said Maria.
Weavers in West Manggarai are now developing woven fabrics using natural dyes by utilizing various plants. The yellow color comes from the jackfruit stem, the brown color comes from the mahogany skin, and the red color comes from the roots and stems of a sappan.
Kedondong skin can also be used to produce brown, candlenut fruit for white, tobacco leaves for green, and indigofera grass for blue. The use of plants for dyeing fabrics produces a woven with a dull color, so that West Manggarai weaving has its own characteristics compared to weaving from other areas in Flores such as Sikka, Sumba, and Ende.