Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tracking Claire Holt's Dance Quest in Celebes

In 1938 Claire Holt, an American dancer, published Dance Quest in Celebes. The first page is a map of her journey. The rest of the pages are simple, straightforward descriptions of the dances  that she saw and filmed and her experiences. She travelled with Ralph De MarĂ©, the founder and president of Les Archives Internationales de la Danse in Paris.

I have arrived in South Sulawesi to meet MJA Nashir’s muse, Nenek Panggao, the elderly woman who spins. Nobody spins anymore in Southern Sulawesi, but Nenek Panggao still does it everyday. She was a guiding spirit for MJA Nashir when we made our film, Rangsa ni Tonun and she appears in the book that I wrote about our film. I am very anxious to meet her. Her photograph appeared in the Toraja exhibition in the Textile Museum in Jakarta and apparently her granddaughters were flown in to do weaving demonstrations.

Reading Claire Holt’s account, however, was inspiring. I decided to rent a car and travel in her footsteps. Her writings will bring the places that we visit to life.

On top of that, I have been inspired by the little that I know of J.E. Jasper and Mas Pirngadie’s journeys. One of Pirngadie’s sketchbooks, part of the collection of the KITLV, includes a little scribble showing part of their route in Celebes. One day, I would like to know enough to make an interesting journey in their footsteps. But for now I have five days to fill with a journey to Toraja’s Nenek Panggao, guided by the words of Claire Holt.

Today we started in Makassar and we have ended up in Parepare. Tomorrow we will be in Toraja.
I can’t say that our journey was as interesting as Claire Holt’s, but it had its adventures.

Silk in all colours can be purchased in Makassar.

Sunset over the West Coast of the peninsula

Sunset in Makassae

Colourful boats in Paotere harbour, just north of Makassar.

Dutch influence can still be found in the waterways....of course!

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