Thursday, July 26, 2018

Celebrate the Weavers!

Batak weavers have been used and abused for a long time. Exploitation is both unjustifiable and unconscionable, but it is more the rule than the exception. The consequences are severe. One is that children refuse to learn the art (who wants a life of drudgery?) and  weavers suffer from very low status and wounded pride.

At the Simalungun Weaving Centre, we want to change that. We want our weavers to have both name and profile so that they feel proud and so that they can operate independently (rather than through middlemen/workshop owners/politicians/tour operators). This is why mas MJA Nashir and I make "profile sheets" for the weavers we know. 

We advocate that those interested in saving the weaving arts follow suit. It is a relatively simple and effective remedy. That so far our advice has met with no success is a symptom of the current obsession with marketing and the consumer/tourist rather than the needs of the weavers.

Alas, the market is important but it will not save the weaving tradition. To the contrary! The market exposes weavers to vicissitudes over which they have no control and has even generated the current crisis. No, the powers that be must invest in the weavers, show them respect and take steps to bolster their pride. Treat them like culture heroes.

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