In 2015 MJA Nashir and I had quickly organized a spinning workshop. We had learned that Ibu Tetti had planted cotton and that the fluffy bolls were available for use. We knew that there was a lone spinner close by and we decided to bring the cotton and the spinner together. But who would attend the workshop? To our surprise, Ibu Tetti knew two weavers from the top of Samosir Island who wanted to learn how to spin. Ompu Jonathan was one of them.
I was curious. "Why do you want to learn how to spin?" I had asked her. Spinning cotton is not easy and eats up takes an enormous amount of time. "I want to be able to make a sibolang textile like my ancestors used to do," came Ompu Jonathan's response.
Her answer gave me pause. I read into it nostalgia for days gone by, a respect for the traditions of the past. I looked at this lithe, betel-chewing woman. What a goal to have! How unusual in this day when weaving is on the way out! I didn't quite know what to make of her dream. An unrealizable pipe dream? I didn't know whether to comfort or commend her.
|The sibolang may well be
one of the oldest Batak textiles
|I listened carefully to Ompu Jonathan
I decided that Ompu Jonathan would be an asset that should be included in the Textile Revival Project with the Bank of Indonesia. This kind of spirit, this kind of dedication could only benefit the project! And she needed to be encouraged and rewarded! If she had the tools, she certainly had the will! What a shame if she were not able to succeed!
Ompu Jonathan is now looking for a person who can teach her how to make the ikat patterning in the sibolang textile. It used to be that every weaver of the sibolang made her own ikat. Where can she find an ikat maker now on Samosir Island? Like Ma Tika, she also joined us as we made our rounds from one weaving region to another during our last journey through Tano Batak. In Muara she returned from the market with a bundle of ikat patterned yarn, overjoyed that the maker had let her purchase it. She also made acquaintance with the natural dyer and learned the recipe for indigo dye. Like Ma Tika she broadened her network so that, as soon as she has found her ikat teacher, presumably she will have all the tools to be able to accomplish her goal.
This time we left Ompu Jonathan at Parapat where she was going to cross over to Samosir Island and look around on her own for an ikat maker. We had too little time left to be able to cross over with her and assist in the search. I wonder how she fared? As I write, curiosity is getting the better of me. I simply have to call….
… Alas, I have just learned through the telephone that Ompu Jonathan has not yet found her ikat guru. I have to get back there to help her as soon as I can. That's two things on my list: her spinning wheel and her ikat guru. Oh yeah, and a souvenir from The Netherlands. I asked if helping her achieve her goal wasn't enough and she said, "No". There you have it! Three things on my list.