Today, for the first time, I gave away a copy of Legacy to active weavers. It was an invigorating and inspiring moment. My favourite photograph of the event is the one in which four different hands are all pointing to a pattern on the same page. The weavers in the village, particularly one white-haired woman, absolutely devoured the tome.
It was not a village that I had been to before, so I had no personal tie with any of the weavers. “Sangkalan” was in the vicinity of Lumban Suhisuhi, north of Pangururan on Samosir Island. The weaver with white hair kept trying to convince us that the textiles that she had hung out for sale as soon as she saw our vehicle pull up had been woven in the village, while it was clear that they had been made elsewhere on a semi-mechanical loom. I thought it might be a useful strategy to give her a copy of Legacy so that she might begin to speak to me seriously. Moreover, this was a village that our weaver tour could visit next year and it seemed to be a wonderful opportunity to test the reception of the book after a year had lapsed.
First I asked the white-haired weaver to sit with me in the shade. We took our places on the bright blue tarpaulin that she unfurled and I placed the book in front of her, inviting her to look through it. From that point onward, she was totally engrossed. I recognized that, purely by chance, I’d given absolutely the very best person a copy of my life’s work. Nobody could have appreciated its contents more; it was immensely satisfying to see how deeply it moved her.
The other weavers in the village deserted their looms and joined us. Villagers emerged from their houses and gathered around. Finally, I asked if I could interrupt their inspection of the book to tell them something. When I had their attention, I told them about the project, read the inscriptions aloud and told them about the work of the donors, the Soroptimists of Arnhem, for the good of women. I asked them to pass on their knowledge to the youth.
I continue to try to determine the most efficacious way of distributing Legacy in the Batak community. I heard, today, of the death of two more weavers in the region to whom I had wanted to present a book. I think that it would be most meaningful to present their copies to young weavers in their villages. They might be inspired to continue to weave and do inventive things. One of them might be the Picasso of Batak weaving!
I loved being in the villages today, loved watching the weavers at work. I know how difficult their work is and they make it look so easy. Their strokes are clean and efficient, like music in movement. I know that it will only take one generation of not weaving for the tradition to completely disappear. That kind of beauty in motion can only be learned when generations of practice gets passed down from mother to daughter, from aunt to niece, from friend to friend. Their legacy is inscribed in their motor skills.
See Back to the Villages - the map!