Thursday, October 10, 2013

Solu Bolon

With Dian Sidauruk (fourth from the right) at Museum Simanindo
in front of the solu bolon
recognizing the spirit of Pulang Kampung III

On 9 September we made our way from Silalahi to Tuktuk stopping in Simanindo on the way. Nashir and I have made the acquaintance of Dian Sidauruk through Facebook and we have been moved by his support. Visiting him to show him Rangsa ni Tonun was a priority on our agenda. 

Before we visited his home, he took us on a brief tour of Museum Simanindo and we saw the only solu bolon that I am aware of the existence of. It was the inspiration for the poster of our project.

This is what MJA Nashir had to say about our visit, about the poster, about the spirit of project Pulang Kampung III and the Boat Budaya

"I still remember when Sandra used to talk to me about the ‘solu bolon’ [large Batak dugout canoe]. I thought she was just dreaming. A ‘dream’ in the sense of a ‘fantasy’ as Jesral Tambun wrote in his ‘status on line’ a few days ago, “Life without imagination is a statue!” It reminded me of the words of my late father, “Life, yes, but like a corpse.” And life (read culture) is often constructed atop of dreams and fantasy, or to use a cool idiom, it is ‘a dream come true’. Until one day when we were working on our ‘Pulang Kampung III’ plans and I asked Sandra what kind of image she would like for Pulang Kampung III, Sandra chose the ‘solu bolon’. Even though I had already made a design with an image of a loom and textile. J Yes, I was surprised and confused at that time. I didn’t say anything when I received that email. In my heart I wondered what the connection was between ulos and the solu bolon. In the end I was aware that I myself had daydreamed in front of the solu bolon in Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo in 2010 when I was with Sandra for the first Pulang Kampung voyage and I saw people from the past wearing various kinds of ulos.

Poster of the Pulang Kampung III project
designed by MJA Nashir
Immediately I rummaged through my stack of photographs from 2010, the files of Pulang Kampung I, and found two photographs. One was the solu bolon from Museum Simanindo and one was a photograph of Lake Toba, wide, empty, calm and mystical. So I plopped that Solu Bolon onto the surface of the water. I realized this ‘dream’ and figment of the imagination. Immediately I sent it to Sandra via the email. She was thrilled. Since then we consider this the visualization of Pulang Kampung III with the subtitle ‘Boat Budaya’. I believe that Sandra was not just playing with the idea of the Solu Bolon. Besides I know exactly how earnest she can be about an issue. And indeed, she can explain this matter in glowing descriptive detail, about this image of the past, about the solu, Lake Toba, ulos, the market tradition in times past, until the Nommensen era, this ‘spirit’ of water transportation. And this ‘spirit’ of water transportation underlies Pulang Kampung III (Boat Budaya). We were indeed aware that to fully realize a ‘Solu Bolon’ as the medium of transportation for Pulang Kampung III during the relatively short time that we had to prepare for it was an impossible task. However, the symbol of the solu bolon became the spirit of Pulang Kampung III, a symbol of a means of transportation, a symbol of accessibility, and at the same time a symbol of awareness of the natural environment. To the extent that Sandra did her best  -- even though a solu bolon couldn’t be made and used – to use a prahu or boat which was environmentally friendly (not one with a noisy motor that contaminates the lake environment), for example a boat that is powered with solar energy. We hope that one day there will once again be solu bolon on the waters of Lake Toba. In any case, the solu bolon from the past is visible proof of ancestral knowledge protecting the natural environment." (free translation by myself)

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