A few days ago I was in Pangururan discussing ways of reviving Batak textiles with Regency officials. We talked in the restaurant. When we were finished negotiations, the woman who had accompanied the government team (Ibu Tetti Naibaho) shyly mentioned that she had met team Pulang Kampung at the Lake Toba Festival in 2013. She had been inspired by that meeting to plant some cottonseeds. The plants had grown and now she had some cotton that could be spun. There were weavers in her village, she said, and they were also willing to learn to spin.
|Kapas Palembang in Ompu Erwin's village
Cotton spinning and cotton cultivation both ceased in the Batak area almost a century ago.
|1925. I grabbed this picture from Facebook where it had no reference.
However, it is clearly Toba Batak.
|Ompu Erwin spinning
The other thing that Ibu Tetti said that stopped me in my tracks was that there are weavers in her village who want to learn how to spin! I recognize that this news is as remarkable as her news about the cotton. I have always said that ‘semangat’, the energy that comes from enthusiasm, is our most important asset. Without it we can do nothing. With it, even when no other resources are available, we can move mountains and change the world. So far, during this journey, I have only met weavers who express fatigue. They haven’t wanted to do anything extra. Finishing their textile on time for the next market is all they can or want to manage. It has been depressing to be the recipient of this kind of news, over and over again. But suddenly, this week, I had Ibu Tetti in front of me with her irrepressible shy smile and bright eyes, softly sharing her two pieces of earthshaking news.
|First we will have to make rolags, or luli pinale, as Ompu Erwin
is doing here
Ibu Tetti was keen to go ahead with the plans. Nashir and Paul took a harrowing night ride on Paul’s motorcycle up to Sianjur Mulamula to see if Ompu Erwin was willing. They got a flat tire in an isolated stretch and had to spend the night in a village, but in the morning they were able to contact Ompu Erwin. She was also keen! In my concern about Nashir and Paul’s failure to return on that dark and rainy night, I had contacted Ombang Siboro, head of tourism in the Regency of Samosir. The silver lining in that cloud was that it gave me the opportunity to tell him of our plans. Hurrah, he has generously given us the guest house at the hotsprings for the duration of the workshop! And Tetti will see if the goverment can provide transportation for us.
And when it comes to financial support, another miracle occurred. Someone on Facebook whom I have never met suggested, in her enthusiasm, that I set up a weaving school. Feeling weighed down by the implications of such a suggestion, I decided to ask if she would help me bear the financial weight of this workshop. She was immediately willing and found two friends who were also immediately willing to chip in a little bit. So far we have the transportation of Team Pulang Kampung almost completely covered and also the fee that we would like to pay to Ompu Erwin to thank her for being our guru. Thank you, Tiarma Hutagalung! Lasma has agreed to be our accountant.
Excitement is building. Manguji Nababan, head of the Centre of Documentation and Research of Batak Culture at Nommensen University, may be able to attend, as may Nelson Lumbantoruan, head of Tourism in Dolok Sanggul. Ombang Siboro will try to attend. Ishak Aritonang and Arjuna Bakkara, two bright young Bataks interested in setting up a workshop for blue dyes in Muara in the future will try to attend. So will the Camat in Muara. Franmi Karto, son of the Karo goldsmith may be able to help Nashir with the video documentation using new equipment borrowed from Suarasama. It is turning into a Festival of Yarn, not just a workshop! Such a pleasure to work with this kind of enthusiasm. (What a difference compared to working with half-hearted students at university.)
If we collect enough financial support, we may be able to pay for yarn to be spun for us in the future. Perhaps, one day, we will be able to make an ulos with handspun yarn! Whoa! Whoa! No sense counting chickens just yet. It is special enough to re-kindle Batak spinning in Sianjur Mulamula, the place of origin of the Batak people, the place where the great and original Batak spinner, Si Boru Deak Parujar, came down to earth on her yarn and created the world. SiAnjur Mulamula, the place of origins. May it be the place of re-origins.