Ndona - fine Endenese and Lio style ikat
In the Ndona region of Flores, on the mountainous south coast of Flores east of Ende, very fine ikat textiles are produced in two related but dissimilar styles: in the West the Endenese style is followed, in the East the Lio style. The most important weaving villages are Wolotopo, Ngalupolo and Onelako. In the latter two, close to Ende, the Ende style predominates.
The most emblematic type of cloth from Ndona is a two-panel man's stole named semba, which used to be made in the Ende region as well, but stopped being made there. According to women in the region, the Ende style was introduced in Ndona by brides from the Ende region, and survived here in a pure fashion, whereas the cloths from Ende proper underwent a gradual simplification, and lost their elaborate borders already in the 1930's. Nearly all Ndona semba are patola imitations. These showy and stylish man's blankets are the exclusive prerogative of the mosalaki, the titled headmen of the various clans.
According to Hamilton, perfecting the patola-like motif is attributed to an aristocratic woman named Bhene Ladja, born in a hamlet halfway between Ende and Onelaku, who married a man of aristocratic standing from the Onelaku area. Formerly, Ndona blankets were relatively simple and indistinct, but she developed them to a level of sophistication that was much admired by the other villagers, inspiring them to emulate her style and establish the patola-inspired pattern that came to be characteristic of Ndona.
Detail of an early 20th C. patola-inspired Ndona semba, man's stole in Endenese style, still showing the elaborate borders that became extinct in Ende proper during the 1930's.
Another cloth unique to Ndona is a type a sarong that deviates markedly from the common banded or centerfield-with-border models that are common in the area, by having the entire surface covered by a single small pattern.
The development of this specific type, called lawe one mesa (see our cloth 085), is attributed to one educated weaver from the hamlet of Onelako named Theresia Sue, who found a following among other weavers in her village - but nowhere else in Ndona, so that the type is quite rare.
Hamilton reports that in recent years a few weavers in the Lio region have begun to copy this style, which might make it hard to distinguish between a Ndona or a Lio lawe one mesa, except that most younger Lio weavers now use rayon instead of cotton. So we may establish this the rule of thumb: if it is cotton, it is almost certainly a Ndona from Onelako.
It is interesting to note how sensitive local people still are about propriety where ikat patterns are concerned. As Hamilton notes: "A talented weaver who lives nearby, but is from an unrelated family of low social standing, feels that she cannot ask to be taught one mesa patterns. She could undoubtedly copy them by observing them in public, but she does not consider this appropriate."