Last June feels like a light year away. I was new in Indonesia, then, having not been here in such a long time. The state of crisis in the Batak weaving arts was just beginning to seep into my awareness. Since then a vision and a discourse about the perpetuation of this threatened art have begun to take shape.
Fiber Face 3 plays an immense role in that process. It has presented a forum in which to tell the general public about what has been lost and the urgency of the crisis. It has presented a space in which to show beautiful textiles, the likes of which most people here – and specifically the Batak youth – no longer have an opportunity to see (because the heritage has been sold off and exported). Importantly, Ompu Okta is also here demonstrating the complexity of her skill and her extraordinary proficiency as an old-style weaver. (An “old style weaver” to my mind is one who takes so much pride in her work that she also takes the time and uses all of her capacities to make a beautiful product. Most weavers who work for the market receive so little payment for their work that they do not enjoy this luxury.) And finally, Ompu Okta is teaching visitors how to weave. Not only do we have her loom set up but also a second loom with the red warp that Ompu Okta made for the purposes of our film. This opportunity to teach her craft is vastly different from a “normal” situation in the village, but it fits the times and is an attempt to recruit students/apprentices in the wider world.
|Ompu Okta has had hundreds of students at Fiber Face 3 in Yogyakarta where
much emphasis has been placed on the continuation of culture.
At the end of my lecture, a young woman from South Sumatra came up to me and said that she had been moved by my lecture. She is studying the art and science of textiles at a large, accredited institution but until hearing my lecture, had been unsure of the direction she wanted to take. Now she knew that she had a tradition to guard and a foundation on which to build: her own! She is 19, impressionable, full of promise, full of hope. Her words were the greatest expression of appreciation that I could ever receive for delivering a lecture.