Saturday, March 02, 2013

3. Beautiful Old Ulos will turn Back to the Villages III into a Celebration of the Batak Weaving Arts

A few blogs ago, I wrote about Stephanie Belfrage, the thoughtful Australian woman who decided to return her Indonesian batiks to Java. That sparked a short repatriation ceremony in which her batiks were gifted to Museum Batik in Pekalongan, a ceremony made possible through the efforts of the non-profit Pekalongan Heritage Community and especially Arif Dirhamzah.

What I didn’t mention in the blog was that Stephanie originally contacted me about her Batak textile collection and not her batik textile collection. Pulang Kampung III is, in part, my response  to her request to have the textiles go back to Tano Batak. They are to be housed permanently and well in Jakarta’s Museum Tekstil, but first, this summer, they will join the Back to the Villages III tour and sail around Lake Toba where they will delight and inspire all who see them.
I saw Stephanie's textiles for the first time in Jakarta with
Lasma Sitanggang, my Batak 'daughter'.

I commend the direction and staff of Jakarta’s Museum Tekstil for their decision to join us. If the people can’t make it to the museum, let the museum go to the people.  Museum Tekstil in Jakarta is an enthusiastically engaged institution that values not just the work of indigenous weavers, but also the weavers themselves. They do everything in their power to encourage the weaving arts in the archipelago. This time, they are taking it upon themselves to transport Stephanie’s textiles to North Sumatra and set up a makeshift exhibition in a different village on each day of the journey. It will be a lot of work, but they do not shy away from hard work.
Room devoted to weaving equipment in
Jakarta's Museum Tekstil

I hope and expect that the Back to the Villages exhibition series will be mutually inspiring. The staff of Museum Tekstil will get to know the Batak through their reactions to the textiles, and the Batak will be given the opportunity to reflect on the changes in their weaving arts. Stated more directly and clearly, they will be confronted by the disappearance of their woven heritage and it will undoubtedly give them pause.

I am thrilled with the two focuses of the upcoming Back to the Villages journey: film and textiles. What could be more synergetic? The film is about ancient textile techniques and there will be a textile exhibition to complement and support it. The addition of the textile exhibition has turned Back to the Villages III into a celebration of the Batak weaving arts.


  1. Inang,

    Could you please advise the timeline for this tour? We plan to visit Samosir in June, in conjuction with Danau Toba Festival. My international colleagues and their family may also join the trip. I am very sure they will enjoy this tour.

  2. We are planning the journey for the end of August, after Independence Day. We hope to do it before the winds become too strong on the lake. Everything depends on us being able to find the funds, however.

    I wish you much enjoyment at the Danau Toba Festival.

    Salam budaya, Sandra