Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Reaction to Rangsa ni Tonun

It is essential to continually raise awareness about the importance of feeding back cultural materials to the peoples whence they originated. Anthropologists and textile researchers don’t do enough of that. The results may only emerge years later but in this time of cultural crisis, cultural erosion and cultural disappearance, feeding back can be critical. In 2012 MJA Nashir and I showed our film, Rangsa ni Tonun, (about the Batak weaving tradition) in dozens of locations throughout the Batak area and beyond and we handed out my book about the film and the original Batak text to almost a hundred people. This was done in the context of considerable decline and lack of interest in the Batak weaving arts.
But as I write now, a little corner of Facebook is abuzz with plans for Batak textiles on the initiative of a man whom I only know through Facebook, “C.f. Sidjabat”. This is how he explained his motivation:

“…ini yang sedang kita lakukan. Inspirasi lama waktu muda terbuka lagi setelah melihat film "Rangsa ni Tonun" karya ‪Mja Nashir (art director) dan ‪Sandra Niessen (producers). Karya yang luar biasa peneliti "halak sileban" yang begitu mencintai Ulos Batak. Saya ingin meberi sumbangsih walau hanya sedikit.”
“…this is what we are doing. An old inspiration from my youth was rekindled after seeing the film, “Rangsa ni Tonun” by MJA Nashir (art director) and Sandra Niessen (producer). An exceptional work by a researcher “halak sileban” who really loves Batak textiles. I wish to contribute even if only modestly.”

What is he doing?

Mr. Sidjabat writes down information supplied by the weavers
in his village. I am delighted to see that two copies of Legacy were
used at the meeting
He is planning an exhibition of Batak textiles, specifically those from his region (Silalahi/Si Tolu Huta). While he lives in Jakarta, he has gone to the effort of returning to his valley where he has assembled the weavers. Together, around the table, they discussed the highlights of their tradition. He made notes. They gave him the names of the 14 textiles that are unique to the region; many brought samples to show him. To my great delight, when he shared this information on Facebook, he presented a profile of each weaver. They were not left anonymous. (Nai Ati in the sidebar of this blog was
Nai Ati was also at the table and she had brought the copy of Legacy
that I had given to her during the first Pulang Kampung project.
present, and depicted at the meeting. This made me very happy. She brought her copy of Legacy to the meeting.)  C.f.Sidjabat is a mover and shaker with a good track record in motivating the people in his region to cherish their culture and nature. He is a man with a mission.

This area (Silalahi and the neighbouring Paropo) is one of the few areas where Batak weaving is still being done, but even here the ancient styles typical of the region are often being sidestepped to cater to the demand from outside markets. The meetings with weavers and the planned exhibition will emphasize the uniqueness of
With the help of the weavers, Mr. Sidjabat assembled
a list of the specialty textiles of his region.
the Si Tolu Huta tradition. It will teach – and hopefully inspire – the youth. It will give energy and pride to the weavers. Hopefully it will stimulate both the market and production. The weavers are old. Their skills need to be transferred to the youth!

C.f.Sidjabat intends to write a leaflet to inform the world of the Silalahi/Si Tolu Huta tradition – not just the textile names but also the patterning. He is sharing his plans, results and inspiration through Facebook, thereby involving, informing, inspiring many people. I am also excited. To the best of my knowledge there has never been an exhibition of the “Silalahi Tradition”. This primeur will buck the wave of what I call “Palembangization” that has been compelling Batak weavers to make Palembang look-alikes in order to corner the currently glitzy market. The exhibition will say, between the hanging cloths, “Your own tradition has value too!”

Hopefully the other Batak regions will follow suit. Few Batak people today know which textiles are typical of their own tradition. Lasma and I have already been talking about doing something like this in Simalungun….

No comments:

Post a Comment