After leaving the home of the last bulang weaver, it was simply a matter of turning a corner and driving up a narrow path to get to the home of the bulang weaver depicted in Legacy in cloth. The welcome that I received was extraordinarily warm. We were invited into their home where after exchanging pleasantries we talked about Nashir’s book and showed them a copy of it.
Lasma Sitanggang was one of the several young women in the room. When she came and sat down beside me, she confided that she wanted to learn to weave. I was surprised. Until then, I had only heard from young people that they did NOT want to learn to weave because it was too difficult and didn’t pay. From Lasma, I received such a clear and thoughtful answer about the importance of continuing her culture and the work of her ancestors that I asked Nashir to film it. Before the camera, her answer was just as lucid, detailed and even more extensive.
When she was finished and Nashir had put the camera down, she asked if she could tell me more. She confided that she had been selected to compete for a university scholarship, but had failed to make the final selection. She recounted bravely, but the emotions got the better of her and she broke down and sobbed bitter regretful tears on my shoulder. She was a bright, beautiful, articulate young woman with an open and engaging smile. She had lost the future that she dreamed of and felt estranged from her friends who all went off to university without her. She had no money to pay for a university education and she was doing her best to accept her fate with grace. She showed me her hands and said that she was not afraid to work hard in the fields. She would be stuck in the village, probably for the rest of her life.
I found her pain difficult to watch and decided on the spot to give her a copy of Nashir’s book because it would support her in her resolve to explore the knowledge of the ancestors. Nashir and I both expressed our belief that there are valuable forms of knowledge that are not taught at university and we pledged to bring her in touch with people who could support her on her journey to explore the Simalungun weaving tradition.
How strange and wonderful it was to have this happen around the corner from the old woman whose loom was lost amidst the broken-down motorcycles and becaks.
This morning, I shared the story by phone with Restuala Namora in Muara and Jean Howe (Threads of Life) in Bali. Both were receptive and supportive of Lasma Sitanggang. I hope that this remarkable meeting has satisfying follow-up for all concerned. Some employees of Threads of Life will be in Sumatra at the end of November. My heart and thoughts will be with Lasma. I hope that her future will be bright.