Sunday, February 19, 2017

18 February 2017: 14 new pupils

"I have some news," Lasma told me during our last telephone call, and then she shared it with tremendous excitement: "We have 14 new pupils". It took my breath away. She has ordered new looms at a good price and is planning to purchase the yarn. She has teachers and pupils for the three major Simalungun textiles: bulang, surisuri (nanggar suasa) and hati rongga. They want to start within 3 weeks.

The pupils are, for the most part, motivated by money. The subsidy has enticed them; due to it they would rather weave than not weave. This is very telling and suggests that, indeed, the lack of a decent market is the core reason for the decline of weaving. The teacher at the school with whom Lasma works to rekindle interest in weaving, together with Lasma, drummed up the enthusiasm at that school, Lasma's alma mater. Our challenge now is to keep that enthusiasm high.

The need to chase down markets will continue to grow; that is obvious. I also think it will be important to build some kind of "initiation" into the weaving program informing the pupils about the support coming from outside their country and the importance of markets.

I think we also have to work on a text and a label so that purchasers know what they are supporting when they buy a textile from the Simalungun Weaving Centre and, hopefully, with time our label can be synonymous with quality. Perhaps we need to put a green sticker on the first ones to signal that the textiles were made by a novice.

Lasma said that the quality of weaving by the first pupil, Nita, is already as good as that of the grandmother, her teacher (whom she has watched all her life). Lasma is so deeply struck by Nita's capacity that she is encouraging Nita to learn everything that her grandmother can share. Her grandmother is 85. When she is no longer with us, Nita will be able to fill her shoes -- or rather her loom and her teaching role in the Simalungun Weaving Centre. Luckily that is also Nita's ambition.

Methinks this is all pretty good news.

Thank you again to all of you who have contributed to the "First Textile" pot.

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