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Little girls in our tribe grow up watching their moms and grandmas weaving net bags. The net bag is an essential item in tribal life. A woman is rarely seen without one, and they have many in their possession.
Some bags are for carrying food; can you imagine going to the grocery store buying two days worth of food, piling it in a bag, and then swinging the bag over your head to carry it home? These ladies are strong! It is amazing. I remember in my early days taking trips to the garden, and they would throw a few token potatoes in my net bag for me to carry. An eight-year-old girl carried more than I did. One time they even gave me a fairly heavy bag, and then once we got through the villages, the youngest daughter took the bag for me. I laughed about it later, realizing they were trying to save me the embarrasment of not carrying my own load.
Some net bags are for carrying children. They line the bags with scraps of old shirts or material and then place a layer of leaves on top and place the baby on top. It is a perfect little haven for them and keeps them secure and warm for trips. They spend a lot of time in these bags as newborns. The leaves act as a barrier, since diapers are non-existent here. They also have other bags that cover the baby bags. These are to keep the cold winds from blowing in. The babies often wake up and are quite sweaty when they’re pulled out after being buried under all the layers.
Other net bags are smaller, and they don’t have much in them, just a few necesities, maybe a bar of soap, a spoon, and some miscellaneous possessions. This is the bag you will see them with if they are just walking from village to village visiting, or it is the bag they bring to church. I guess women are women everywhere—a bag for every occasion. : )
So the process of making the traditional bag is incredible. The “string” used to weave the bag is actually fibers from plants. The fibrous, stringy strands are dried and then rolled to create a strong strand. Then the strands are rolled together to create the final skein of string. So once the string is actually ready, the weaving begins.
Times are changing and town-bought nylon string had been a hit for years before we entered the scene. String from town comes ready for weaving; it is washable and it is durable. Not to mention it comes in many colors, so that leaves room for uniqueness and creativity. I attempted to learn the way of weaving once upon a time. It was daunting to say the least and I needed a lot of help when I was working between rows of colors and to restring the needle. I had a lot of help from my tribal friends and can only take credit for maybe 20% of the bag. I am not a crafty person, but it was fun to learn something new. Since then I took up crocheting bags, which I could do a bit more independently. There is something relaxing about sitting in a house weaving bags with other ladies, talking about the village news or just enjoying the fire.
This is just one of the many ways that I have observed how God provides for people. My tribal friends live in the midst of creation and God provides for all their needs. A caring, merciful Creator not only placed them on a mountain where the ground grows everything they need to live, but provides them with jungle resources to accomplish and make for themselves the tools that they need to survive.
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