Gado Gado International

Timorese Society and Dwellings

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on May 1, 2009

One of the most beautiful and culturally rich islands of Indonesia is Timor. There are multiple languages and dialects spoken by the indigenous people of the island, with two large groups based on a common language: the Atoni in the west, and the Tetum in the east and center of the island.

The collective ideas, customs, and institutions normally associated with these two groups are quite similar, and differences are more the result of local specificities rather than racial divides. There are a few moderately large urban areas in Timor, but the majority of the population lives in villages and hamlets, and the social structure of these groups are based mainly on male lineages.

A typical Timorese structure

A typical Timorese structure

Timorese Artistry

Timorese culture is diverse in its art, and there is a variety of different artists. Women are typically called upon to weave, incorporating the design of a god’s image into their work. The Bunaq people of Timor have bards renowned for their resourceful writing and storytelling.

Carvings are common in wood, although some artists use buffalo horn. These carvings are most often found on the doors of residences, but can also been seen on posts, ridge crests, and statues. In addition, some groups are skilled in smithing and silver working.

Women use traditional looms to craft shawls and fabrics.

Women use traditional looms to craft shawls and fabrics.

Timorese Religion and Beliefs

Timorese religion comprises a set of ritual transactions by which human individuals and social groups maintain relationships with their ancestral ghosts. For the people of Timor, the harmony between the two may be disrupted by infractions of ritual conventions. This upsetting of the cosmic order has repercussions in the human spectrum, such as illness.

Although it is unclear for the Timorese when exactly the human soul enters a body, it certainly leaves upon death, encouraged by a rite of passage. This soul leaves the secular Upperworld and joins the other ghosts and fertility spirits in the sacred Underworld. Within a few decades the dead soul becomes an ancestral ghost.

The ancestral ghosts in the Timorese religion have a hold over the behavior of human life, and in turn exploit the resources of their living kin. These ghosts crave regular offerings of betelnut, palm wine, and food from living descendants.

A typical offering of Betelnut, a natural stimulant, in basket, with a Betelnut case on edge.

A typical offering of Betelnut, a natural stimulant, in basket, with a Betelnut case on edge.

However, these ghosts also have the power to make men and women fertile, enabling their kin to reproduce. Since the ancestral ghosts require sustenance and humans require offspring, there is a relationship of reciprocity between the sacred and secular worlds.

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Caring for your teak furniture

Posted in Informational by gadogadointl on April 10, 2009

by David Sussman

All of Gado Gado’s teak furniture is made from recycled lumber or from sustainably farmed Grade A plantation teakwood. Teak furniture will withstand more abuse than many other types of wood because of its hard, forgiving nature. However, to keep your teak furniture looking good will require some attention and care.

Antique and Reproduction Furniture for Interior Use
Gado Gado sells antique furniture and reproduction furniture made from old plantation teak lumber salvaged from dismantled structures in Java, Indonesia. Each piece of furniture has been individually hand-finished using traditional methods. After sanding by hand, each piece receives 3 to 5 coats of shellac, which is made by mixing a natural material secreted by beetles in denatured alcohol. The solution is then applied so that the alcohol evaporates, producing a hard finish that brings out the rich natural color of the wood. Unless exposed to frequent direct UV sunlight or water, this finish will endure for many years. You may apply good quality furniture oil as needed to retain the luster of the wood and help prevent any water spots.

If your furniture’s finish has faded or has water or other stains, you may wish to refinish it. Start by sanding the surface lightly until smooth, and then apply good quality shellac with a paintbrush. When re-finishing with shellac, it is not necessary to sand down to the raw wood. Do not use lacquer or polyurethane over the existing shellac, unless the wood is sanded back to the raw wood. (Because of the oily nature of teak, permanent finishes like polyurethane will not last very long anyway.) For the best results, you may wish to thin commercial shellac with denatured alcohol, following the instructions for the product. Better results will be achieved if the work is done on a warm, dry day. Apply the shellac quickly and avoid over-brushing. Allow the finish to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat. To maintain the luster of the final finish, you may apply and buff a coat of natural beeswax on top of the final coat of shellac, or use good quality furniture oil over the shellac finish.

Teak serving tray, before and after an application of beeswax and orange oil

Teak serving tray, before and after an application of beeswax and orange oil

Garden & Outdoor Furniture
Garden furniture is generally made of new air- or kiln-dried teak, and is sold either fine sanded or coated with teak oil. Both are discussed below, as is an alternative method using a commercial teak-sealing product.

Fine Sanded
If you buy your furniture fine sanded it will have only the natural color of the wood coupled with the raw natural texture of the teak grain. The untreated timber is a lovely yellow-brown olive color when still fresh.

If your furniture is to be used indoors, and away from a lot of natural sunlight, over a period of time—perhaps six months to a year—the wood will gradually become a darker shade of brown.

If on the other hand the furniture is left outdoors, the effects of the sun’s rays and rain will ‘bleach out’ the wood’s natural color, gradually turning it a soft silvery gray. This silvery gray patina gives teak furniture a distinctive appearance, which many people consider to be very attractive, as it allows the furniture to blend in well with many outdoor environments. Teak furniture left in this state is easily maintained, and needs no treatment whatsoever to give many years of service.

Teak Oiled
If you buy your furniture already oiled with teak oil, it will have a darker brown color and a soft sheen. Teak wood is naturally oily and requires no treatment to be used indoors or outdoors, and the use of teak oil won’t increase the life of the wood. However, teak oil does change the color to a soft yellow-brown, and it can also help to prevent stains from seeping into the wood grain. It will also slow down the graying effect caused by ultraviolet rays.

To maintain its appearance, teak oiled furniture will need to be re-oiled periodically. If you decide to re-oil your furniture, select a good quality teak oil from your local supplier. A basic method for oiling is as follows:

The furniture should first be cleaned [see below]. Afterwards, ensure that the wood is completely dry before starting to oil. Lightly sand the wood until smooth before oiling. Tools needed include teak oil, a clean 1″ or 2″ paint brush, some clean cotton rags, good light and plenty of space to work in. The process can be a little messy so be sure to wear work clothes, and household gloves will keep the oil off your hands.

Apply the teak oil with a clean brush, starting from the top and working downwards. The surface should be left wet by the brush, but try to avoid leaving surplus oil on the wood. After a few minutes – between 5 and 15 depending on the ambient temperature and humidity, the oil will start to become ‘tacky’. At this point the surface of the furniture should be wiped down with a clean cotton rag, carefully removing all surplus oil.

One coat is usually sufficient, but you can apply a second coat if required, after a minimum of one hour for the first coat to dry. Once you’ve completed the oiling and the surface is dry to the touch, a second clean rag can be used to “buff up” the surface.

Please be sure to dispose of any used oily rags and cleaning cloths carefully (spontaneous combustion can occur), by placing them in water in a sealed metal container, or in accordance with the instructions from the oil manufacturer.

NOTE: Some companies that sell outdoor teak do not recommend using teak oil on outdoor furniture because it may cause mildew or irregular coloring of the wood. Gado Gado has not experienced this problem with our outdoor furniture.

Reclaimed teak plank, sanded halfway

Reclaimed teak plank, sanded halfway

Cleaning Teak Furniture
If you wish to remove the silver-gray appearance and dirt from your outdoor teak furniture, wash with warm soapy water using a normal medium household bristle brush [not too stiff] or a jet-wash. One company recommends using a cleaning solution consisting of four parts laundry detergent or dishwashing soap and one part bleach. Wash from the top downwards, and then rinse with clean water. There are also proprietary cleaners on the market that can be used to clean off various deposits and accumulated dirt and stains.

We do not recommend the use of steel wool or steel wire brushes to clean teak furniture, as any metal residue left in the wood grain may rust and discolor the wood.

If after washing your furniture still has some stubborn and heavily ingrained stains, these can be removed by sanding with a fine grade of sandpaper, being sure to work only with the direction of the timber grain. After sanding away the stains, if the furniture was previously teak oiled you may wish to re-oil, or if it had previously been left natural (unfinished), the fresh teak color exposed by sanding will soon mellow to a silver gray patina.

Sumba: Ikat Weavings

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on April 2, 2009

by Tyler Keeley

The artisans of Sumba are particularly known for their ikat style of weaving, which uses a resist dyeing process before the threads are woven to create a pattern or design. The process is very labor intensive, and it involves wrapping the warp threads with waxed string or paper. It is then dyed, with the waxed thread acting as a “resist” that prevents the wrapped areas from accepting the dye. Vegetable dyes are still used.

Sumba ikat, stages 1 & 2

Sumba ikat, stages 1 & 2

Most ikat designs involve the use of more than one  color, and the threads must be re-wrapped between each dyeing if the current color is to be preserved.

Sumba ikat, stages 3 & 4

Sumba ikat, stages 3 & 4

Once the dyeing process is complete, the paper or waxed string is removed to reveal the design.

Ikat weaving, stage 5

Ikat weaving, stage 5

These steps all occur before the warp threads are integrated into the loom. The final pattern is often symmetrical, creating a blocky design. Due to the paper or waxed resist thread, there is sometimes a bleeding or tie-dye effect in the fabric. Ikats from Sumba are known for being precisely woven, unlike ikat styles from Japan or Guatemala.

Ikats

Ikats

These beautiful fabrics–as well as others from Bali, West Timor, India, and Nepal–can be found in our showroom in Santa Rosa.

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All About Teak

Posted in Informational by gadogadointl on March 27, 2009

by David Sussman

Teak is the common name for a tall timber tree of the verbena family. The tree, which attains a height of more than 30 m (about 100 ft), is native to India and Malay Archipelago, and is cultivated in Java and the Philippine Islands. Another variety of teak has also been cultivated in East and West Africa, Cuba and the Caribbean, and northern South America. Because of its durability and strength, teak wood is used throughout the world as lumber in shipbuilding. In the tropics, the wood is used primarily for the construction of furniture; teak furniture has been known to resist the attacks of insects and the corrosive effects of weather for hundreds of years.

Teak does not grow in tropical rain forests. It is a deciduous tree that grows particularly well in the dryer, hilly terrain typical of plantation forests in Southeast Asia. Java has very large teak plantations, which were first planted by the Dutch in the early 1800s and are now regulated by the Indonesian government. This means that any old or new teak furniture and architectural elements from Indonesia are made from plantation grown trees. So when you buy from Gado Gado you are not contributing to the destruction of the remaining old growth teak forests in other Asian countries.

Flowering Teak Trees

Flowering Teak Trees

Teak grows quite fast, and the trees are cut after 50 – 60 years when they attain a height of up to 150 feet and have a diameter of 3-5 feet. If well maintained, a tree can produce a clear stem up to 100 feet long, giving a high timber yield.

Characteristics of teakwood

Teak is a very dense coarse-grained hardwood. It is generally straight grained with few knots, but some trees have a wavy grain. The wood has a coarse and uneven texture. The wood contains a high level of silica, which causes rapid blunting of saws and other cutting edges. When freshly cut, the surface of the wood has a dull appearance, and the timber has a distinctive, pleasant aroma. Fresh-sawn teak has a slightly oily feel due to the high oil content.

Teak is a very durable wood. It is resistant to rot caused by fungal decay, and the high level of resinous oil present in the timber helps to act as a natural insect repellent, giving the timber very high resistance to attack by termites and other wood boring insects.

Plantation teak planks ready for use

Plantation teak planks ready for use

Teak is generally resistant to water and many chemical reagents, including acids. It does not have a strong reaction when it comes in contact with metals. For these reasons it is frequently used for boat decks, and in the past for aircraft carrier decks and work surfaces in chemical labs.

to be continued…

Sumba: History and Religion

Posted in Culture and History by gadogadointl on March 14, 2009

by Tyler Keeley

Gado Gado collects antiques and relics from multiple Asian areas, but none as intriguing as the Lesser Sunda region of Indonesia. Travel to the southeast end of the chain to find the islands of Sumba and Timor.

The majority of the indigenous people there still carry the belief system of their ancestors, practicing the rituals passed down by their parents. These beliefs play a large role culturally and socially, reflected in the carvings of stone and wood that populate the native settlements.

General map of Indonesia. Sumba and Timor are located in Eastern Indonesia

General map of Indonesia. Sumba and Timor are located in Eastern Indonesia

Sumba is a hilly, arid island with a population of about 400,000. The eastern half of the island boasts a general cultural and linguistic uniformity, while the western region is home to about a dozen separate ethnic groups. The fragile economy of the east is supported by exports of cattle and textiles, whereas the west is dependent on cash crops including coffee and cloves.

Mountainous area of Sumba.

Mountainous area of Sumba.

Three-fourths of Sumba’s population adhere to the Marapu religion, which centers on worshiping ancestors, local tutelary deities, and various other minor spirits. This is accomplished through a system of prayers, fasting, and sacrifices.

When a death occurs in the village, the artists from Sumba are charged with the task of inscribing images on stone as a visual recording of the person’s pageantry, and mourning which follows. The iconography carved into tombs refers directly to both the visible participants, like slaves and sacrificed animals, as well as the invisible ones, like ancestral spirits.

Sumba Stone Ancestor Figure, Three Angles

Sumba Stone Ancestor Figure, Three Angles

An important and very frequent image is the rider of a horse, a symbol of virility. A tail sticking up is interpreted as very strong, encouraging horse trainers to break their horse’s tail bone, forcing it to re-grow upwards. Moreover, it is the horse which bears its master’s soul into the afterworld.

Sumbanese ikat depicting riders with horses

Sumbanese ikat depicting riders with horses

To be continued in the next installment.

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