It has all been sparked by Legacy in cloth. They found that the book offered potential as a foundation for working in the Batak area. Until now, they have always worked in Eastern Indonesia. When I was in the Batak region last October/November, some members of the YPBB Foundation, the research arm of Threads of Life, joined me. They wanted to pinpoint places where they could begin to work.
|The men in the photograph, from left to right, are Daud, Pung, Nashir and Frog.
The women are former weavers in Sianjur MulaMula
|I enjoyed Jean Howe's company alot during those travels. (Photo MJA Nashir)
I have seen their natural dye laboratory/studio, poked my way through their shop, gone behind the scenes in their offices to see their data banks, day-to-day operations and textile stores, and visited field sites in Timor and Bali. All the while, I have been able to talk with them endlessly about what they do and why they do it that way.
|Examining one of Ompu Okta's mother's textiles in the Threads of Life office.
Frog is to the left, Jean Howe is pointing thoughtfully to the beadwork in the cloth,
and Pung is to the right. These three had joined me in North Sumatra in November.
Colour is just one facet of the process of textile renewal. Ancient textiles may be “replicated” in appearance, but when they are revived in this cultural sense, including songs, techniques and equipment, associated rituals and so on, this is what is truly exciting and laudable. And this is what Threads of Life does.
On the first day of my visit here in Bali, I saw some “revival textiles” in the Threads of Life storage area that filled me with such emotion that I later had to sit down and try to figure out what was going on inside me. It is hard to explain. At first I described it as akin to the first time I saw impressionist paintings in Paris after having learned to love them in books and postcards. But the wellspring of my emotion was much deeper than that. I love the quality of the ancient textiles of Indonesia but for so long they have also been the source of a dull, sad ache because I know they represent a past era. Modern products are different. They are not as fine, they are more standardized so that the weaver’s hand is virtually absent as a signature, the materials from which they are made are usually inferior, and so on. In my writings, I have described and analyzed the kinds of changes that have taken place and the social and economic reasons for these changes. Seeing revived textiles has moved me to tears. It is like witnessing a miracle.
Oh Shoppers, when you go to the Threads of Life shop in Bali, know what you buy! Your purchase is supporting indigenous Indonesian culture, making a tiny bit of room for it in this world.