|Ma Kamra doing her demonstration|
But why don't I just spill the beans?
Recognizing Ma Kamra's need, I suggested she use the Morinda-dyed yarn that I had purchased in Savu and that I commission a high-quality textile from her. The yarn was expensive, and I hate to use it on an experimental textile, but we have no other access to Morinda-dyed yarn. And we have to start somewhere, so why not here? Ma Kamra was convinced she could make a good product.
She consistently and repeatedly refused to tell me what she expected as a 'wage' for doing the cloth and insisted that I determine the price that I would pay. In the end I asked her how much time she would spend on the cloth and I said that I would pay her the going rate for working in the fields. I thought this was much higher than her current wage and about five times what she receives for weaving her regular textiles, but she was incensed and insulted. I asked her to come back with the price that she would like but she refused. She was too hurt. She has heard stories about the prices that high quality textiles can fetch, and I think she had constructed a castle in the air and a dream about what I could provide. I have always treated her very well, giving her the opportunity to travel around the Batak area with me and bringing her to Java to learn about indigo dyeing. I think she had very high expectations especially on the heels of her demonstration work. I asked her to please understand that I know too little about price structure, but she said that she would no longer work with me, that I should find someone else who can do her quality of work. And she would give up on her dream of making a high quality textile, and just go on with her day-to-day regular weaving.
Ma Kamra is an extremely modest person and very shy. That she cannot just come out and share her dreamed-of price is symptomatic of her life of poverty and disempowerment. I know that empowerment of the weavers will be part of the process of building this weaving centre and this passive-aggressive response is one step along the way.Weaver empowerment is a micro-process.
Nevertheless I am upset at having hurt Ma Kamra and it has destroyed my sleep. I write in the wee hours. Somehow she and I must come to a realistic price. Ma Kamra and I both have to learn how to do that.