A brand born of the baskets made by a tribe that descends from Gods
Röportaj: Ezgi Genç
One was a lawyer, the other a business executive, who one day decided to pursue another path and found a completely different world in Indonesia. This is the extraordinary story of Dilan Öztürk and Koray Toros.
How was Orangwanita born?
Orangwanita is an initiative launched by two adventurers, who set off from the small artisan villages in Indonesia and headed toward comparatively lesser-known parts of the world, and started living in this entirely different culture among some of the world’s friendliest people.
The moment we arrived in Indonesia, we were sure that this was the best decision we ever made in our lives! We fell in love with the bags that a 150-family mountain tribe in Bali weaved from orchid vine using a centuries-old technique passed down generations. Later we met artisans of Java, woodcarvers, and Borneo tribes who made antique baskets. And finally, we decided to create Orangwanita, and share the arts and crafts we found in this far away land with the rest of the world.
What is the meaning of Orangwanita?
Orangutan is one of the rare Indonesian words adopted by the English language. “Orang” means human in Indonesian, and “Hutan” forest. We had met a group of people who called the orangutan, “human from the forest”, and we realized that much more developed countries had not been able to arrive at their level of thinking. For instance, while we are striving extra hard for animal rights in our modern world, they do not call animals that because they already live fully aware of a life shared with animals. So, the first part of Orangwanita comes from this. “Wanita” means woman in Indonesian. In this respect we have a problem, especially in our country, with devaluing women by regarding them as incomplete people. That is why we created this name, which we can translate as “human coming from a woman” or “woman’s human”.
What are the characteristics of these bags?
Orangwanita’s authentic handmade bags are unique pieces woven with ‘orchid vine’ found only in the rainforests in the north of the Wallace line, and they are so precious that we wouldn’t dare call them wicker. Each one is individually and carefully crafted, and has a beautiful story to tell...
It takes more than a week to weave the smallest of the beautiful Orangwanita bags. Then, in the dry season, they are dried in open air under the equatorial sun for a week so that they can really dry and harden. Afterwards, they are ‘cooked’ in the smoke of burning jackfruit and coconuts to acquire their natural color, and finally cleaned by hand. The bags that undergo all kinds of treatments are made to last long years, like the ancient culture of this tribe, and to withstand water, humidity, all kinds of bugs and insects, making these ecological designs unique… People who buy these bags actually support the survival of a culture passed down generations in the fast consumption cycle and the sustainability of this tribal art.
What is production like in a village of 150 families? How is the village structured?
These people actually do not do it as a job because it is an art for them… Since they are a tribe descending from the gods, no one is interested in making money or doing business. In addition to these baskets, they also make “ikat”, which is a traditional woven fabric. Apart from the 150 families, there are also Indonesian people living in this village that we can call “outsiders”. They outsource jobs like agriculture and animal husbandry to these people because they are only occupied with their own arts. Although there is no distinction, the bags are produced mostly by women. And because they don’t see it as a job and there are few people who do it, production is very limited.
The village has its own rules and spaces. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the space where the tribe lives, and they cannot marry into the tribe either. Strangely, there is a book of rules that continues to be written, for example, and with each generation these rules are changing and evolving. Unknowingly, they have created one of the oldest written constitutions of the world, a living constitution that is still being written. Since the new rules are decided on together, there seems to be direct democracy in the village. This primitiveness is astonishing and yet equally awe-inspiring.
The tribe’s departure point is not making bags with the vine orchid, called Ata. They also make other products that are basically baskets. Of course, these products, which they make without any commercial concern, have a specific design concept. For instance, our most preferred round bags actually come from a round basket. When they just wanted to make a box, it turned into a bag with the addition of a leather strap and lining. We, as Orangwanita, are actually adding such design touches. We develop the products in different models and enhance them with details.
What are your next plans? Will you expand the Orangwanita collection?
We are still seeking traditional crafts, ecological designs and recycled materials. The story of Orangwanita is the way we live much more than just doing business. So all the products that bear this brand should be creations that we above all love and that wow us with the way they are made. Any innovation that we admire for its creativity, material, lifestyle or mentality of the people who make it can be branded Orangwanita. Of course, such products do not exist solely in Bali. We continue to travel to the neighboring cities and countries for new discoveries that will excite us in the same manner. And our new products will always be the ones that tell the story of our adventures on this journey.
Where can we find Orangwanita products?
Our website will soon be available in Turkish as well. Until then, people can reach us via Instagram or at olmadikdukkan.com.