Thursday, April 04, 2013

7. Pulang Kampung III: about the past because it is about the present and the future

Today a gratifying email from an aspiring fashion designer who has used Batak textiles as her source of inspiration.

Olivia Sinaga's Sibolang-derived fashion textile.
She is a Batak herself, Olivia Sinaga. She wrote to let me know that my book, Legacy in cloth, Batak textiles of Indonesia, had been one of her sources of inspiration and information.

Hello Sandra, do you remember me? My name is Olivia boru Sinaga from Indonesia. Last year I emailed you because i was searching one of your book about Batak for my Last Project. And actually i kinda wanna thank you, well it's already too late, but I still wanna thank you for your help to find your book in Indonesia, and with your book, I can finish my Last Project with so many knowledge about my own culture.

My Last Project has good responses. One of the famous Teen magazine "kawanku" once interviewed me about my Last Project. So, if you have some time, maybe you wanna check out my blog There are pictures from last project in College, and some of my works in Bandung Institute if Technology.

Once again, thank you for made me realize that Batak is very beautiful. :)

Her blog of 16 March 2013 focuses on her designs inspired by the Batak textile called ‘sibolang’ and is worth visiting because her designs are mouthwatering. On 12 March, she shows how she used the ‘sadum’ textile design.

Recently a Batak person of social prominence was defending the importance of the film, Rangsa ni Tonun, that MJA Nashir and I made together. It is not just nostalgic, he pointed out, but offers a window onto cultural history. I was struck by his need to make this argument. Present day Indonesian society is strongly focused on getting ahead and ‘making it’ in the modern world. That determined, single-mindedness usually means that cultural origins (including animism, cannibalism, primitivism) are embarrassing and must be left behind as quickly as possible.

I live in The Netherlands where strong emphasis is placed on the past. There are endless numbers of memorial ceremonies in addition to historical museums, archaeological museums, cultural museums, history projects and televisions shows that remind and revive. The past is presented in commemorative street names, product packaging, architectural renovations, monuments, anniversary celebrations of prominent Dutch industries, and on and on, not just for tourists. The Dutch are strongly aware that a national consciousness and national unity are built on a shared understanding of the past.

I often wonder about the boost that would be given to Batak culture if a similar investment were made by the Indonesian government in Batak cultural history. My own Pulang Kampung projects are the kind of thing that would be supported by the central or local governments if they were carried out in The Netherlands. And no political figures would feel the need to stand up and explain that information about the past was more than “just nostalgia”.

Olivia Sinaga wrote that she was able to finish her project because she had, through my book, access to knowledge about her own culture. She thanked me for helping her realize that Batak culture is very beautiful. Perhaps she has never visited her cultural homeland. She lives on the island of Java, far away. I am sad that it took her that long to discover that her cultural weaving tradition is very beautiful. Sad (though gratified) that it depended on my publication.

Our Pulang Kampung projects are about the past but only because they are about the present and the future. Olivia Sinaga has recognized this and expressed this in her beautiful textiles. Thank you, Olivia, for your beautiful message and your beautiful work.

1 comment:

  1. Please see Olivia Sinaga's interesting response to this blog in her own blog entitled 'Incredibly Happy'