Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


The weaving of textiles in Sa'dan Toraja, a district on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, is layered with many social and cultural influences. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork in three Sa'dan Toraja villages, I suggest the matriarchial social organization of the village life is the most significant factor influencing the production and sales of textiles. The status and hiearchy of the matriarchies is controlled by the local belief system adhered to by the Sa'dan Toraja known as adat. Several government proposals for weaving cooperatives have been assigned and distributed throughout the Sa'dan Toraja area, however only two have been accepted by the local population due to the social and political organization of the local hierarchial matriarchies. The weaving co-operative projects are supported by local government legislation, but when it is time for distribution of the funding only the weavers belonging to the hight status matriarchies will come forward and receive the funds. Weavers from lower status matriarchies will not come forward because by doing so they would be going against the religious and socio-cultural customs governing their society. The high status matriarchies also control the weaving of textiles by not sharing their knowledge of the supplementary weft techniques and most importantly, the knowledge of warping. Without this technical skill no weaving can take place. Traditional weaving knowledge is passed from one group of sisters to their daughters and shared only within this social group; thereby, preserving their knowledge and maintaining their exclusive status.