meet

‘We will certainly survive’

Rosvita Sensiana

Rosvita Sensiana

Rosvita Sensiana, Chairwoman, Watubo

Rosvita is the chairwoman of Watubo, a weaving collective in Indonesia that empowers women with sustainable livelihoods, by creating modern iterations of traditional ikat for the global customer.

“Why do we call ourselves Watubo? Watu means ‘rock,’ and bo means ‘breath’ or ‘soul.’  So Watubo means ‘breathing rock’ or ‘living rock.’ It represents our belief that no matter how hard a place home is, we will certainly survive.

Watubo strengthens this community’s bonds. Before, we just sold what we had. Now we take orders and distribute jobs so that all our weavers get their fair share.

Ikat used to be taught based on intergenerational experience. But here, we enhance it with other knowledge, market demands, and customising for designers.

Our finances improved. Some weavers have supported their children through university. I had nothing before Watubo — now I’ve bought a house and a motorbike. I am reaching prosperity. I have everything I need.

The hardest thing about teaching young weavers is patience. Teens today have phones and get distracted. I let them come around on their own terms — otherwise, I’d lose them. 

But once they manage to sell their work, they start earning, they no longer need to ask for their parents’ provision, that’s when they start committing.

Likewise, our weavers are patient in teaching travellers. The goal is to have travellers understand how our ikat is made, bringing home a scarf produced with their hands-on participation, and a story to share.

I hope to retain the youth’s interest in ikat, so that the next generation would sustain Watubo. I hope young ones abroad will come home and look after our village. Even if they aren’t weavers, I hope they will develop our ikat using the knowledge and relations they gained out there.

As weavers, we don’t want our traditions pirated through printed fabrics or the mass production happening in Central Java. Our ikat bears the values of our ancestors, and our motifs tell stories of our people’s unity. 

Industries wanting to produce something creative should capitalise their own ideas. Because pirating our ancestors’ heritage is the same as indirectly killing our people’s identity and livelihoods.”

Read more about Watubo here.

Support Watubo by shopping items made from fabrics created by their weavers via Noesa

Writer
  •  Grace Tan-Johannes 
Photographer
  •  Andra Fembriarto 

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