After buying a beautiful woven Pandanus grass bag in the village of Bona in central Bali Emily went in search of the people who weave them. She had no luck finding any weavers in central Bali so widened her search to East Bali after a friend working on the Empower Project, an initiative working to help teenage girls stay in education, suggested she accompany her on her next visit to Desa Ban, a remote region on the slopes of Gunung Agung, the huge and active volcano that forms the core of the eastern part of the island. Emily’s husband and son joined the trip and with the help of some very enthusiastic school girls they were taken a tour of the village in search of weavers. Sadly in spite of finding plenty of bamboo basket weavers, including many of the school girls who were helping with the search, no palm leaf or Pandanus grass weavers were found. However in a conversation over coffee before the long drive home, Gede their teacher mentioned that he thought his mother knew a Lontar Palm weaver in a nearby village and he promised to look her up. Watch this space !
Emily returned to Indonesia in February 2019 to design some bird themed products which can be made by the indigenous Batin Sembilan people who live in the Hutan Harapan, Forest of Hope, the last remaining area of lowland rainforest in South Sumatra. It was the first Ecosystem Restoration Concession granted by the Indonesian government and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has supported the initiative for 18 years. It is home to many critically endangered birds as well as Sumatran tigers and Asian Elephant. A small community of Batin Sembilan , who are indigenous to the region, also live in the forest and the aim is to utilise their traditional weaving and craft skills and use sustainable materials such as rattan and pandanus grass that can be cultivated in the forest to make baskets, nest boxes and decorations suitable for sale by the RSPB. The hope is to kick start a community craft industry and offer an alternative to working in the palm oil plantations which completely surround this forest.