The Dye-Plants of Indonesia
Identification of natural dye plant resources in Indonesia and the development of their sustainable use
The Yayasan Pecinta Budaya Bebali (YPBB) works with traditional communities across Indonesia in some of the country’s poorest areas, working to utilise traditional natural plant-dyed textiles. Within the province of Nusa Tenggara Timor, for example, about 45% of all villages are involved in weaving arts, with 10% of these villages practising natural-dye work. A premium is paid for natural-dye textiles and an estimated 15,000 weavers rely on a supply of natural dye materials from the forest.
In recent years, the degradation of the remaining forests and therefore the availability of some plants is reaching critical levels. This brings the long-term future of natural-dye weaving into serious doubt unless it is possible to cultivate the important dye-plant species.
Although traditional communities have a wide range of horticultural skills, many of the various dye-plants used are not part of the traditionally grown plant species in Indonesia and a previous attempt at cultivation of some species proved unsuccessful. The two major obstacles here are a lack of horticultural skills and the lack of scientific names of the commonly used dye-plants. As Indonesia is one of most cultural and language-rich areas in the world, local names and knowledge acquired in one, often very small, language and cultural area, are not necessarily easily transferred to other languages or cultural areas. It is therefore essential that scientific plant collections are made and scientific names are determined; an essential first step in the drawing up of appropriate horticultural protocols for cultivation of the key dye-plant species.
Working alongside Indonesian counterparts from YPBB, the Bali Botanic Gardens and local villages, members of the South East Asian team carried out fieldwork and teaching courses in Bali and Timor in 2011. High quality herbarium specimens of the dye-plants have been produced and deposited at YPBB’s herbarium, the herbarium at the Bali Botanic Gardens and the national herbarium in Bogor. Remaining duplicates were sent to Kew herbarium for incorporation and distribution to other international herbaria. The team also worked with locals to determine which dye-plants are becoming rare and which are most desirable. Once identified correctly, the scientific names of the dye-plants collected will be compiled together with photographs and plant and habitat descriptions to enable appropriate cultivation protocols to be written up by horticultural staff.
Project Partners and Collaborators
Threads of Life (YPBB), Bali
Bali Botanic Garden
Royal Horticultural Society