Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Gave a Teg Talk!

No, that’s not a spelling error. TEG stands for Textile Enthusiasts Group and the group gathers in Singapore.

It was Genevieve Duggan, well known for her book, Ikats of Savu (2001, White Lotus Press) who got the ball rolling. I was going to drop in for a day in Singapore on my way home from Jakarta anyway, so, she said, why not get to know the textile enthusiasts in Singapore while I was there? Why not, indeed! I would have my exhibition textiles with me, and the co-ordinator of this TEG event, Shook Fong Tan, and her husband would be kind enough to pick me (with my heavy bags) up at the airport.

Photo by Lewa Pardomuan of me delivering my TEG Talk
The obvious thing to talk about, it seemed to me, would be the Pulang Kampung expedition and the upshot of the journey. I had all of MJA Nashir’s pictures with me to make a slide show and one of Restuala Namora Pakpahan’s first “revival textiles” from Muara coloured red with natural dye. He gave it to me just before I left Jakarta to remind me that I am the “International Ambassador of Sopo Sorha Harungguan”. I wanted to highlight the importance of bringing research findings back to the peoples from whom the information originated: they who are so deserving, have so little access to libraries and knowledge about their own culture and history, and yet are more often than not forgotten when it comes to “dissemination of findings”.

It was a warm group of enthusiasts (the name fits!), many of whom clearly had a very sophisticated level of knowledge. Spontaneously, I asked them for support for Restuala’s revival work. I had shared with them the importance of North-South partnerships when it comes to keeping indigenous art/craft traditions alive, so I decided to “walk the talk.” The donations that flowed in were so generous that I was gratified and touched.

I was pleased that Lewa Pardomuan, a new acquaintance and passionate textile collector, was in the room as well as Kim Jane Saunders (author of Contemporary Tie and Dye Textiles of Indonesia, 1997) with whom I had apparently corresponded in years past. A new acquaintance was Yvonne Koh, who contacted me through my website shortly before my talk. Because she lived in Singapore, it was possible for her to attend. She turns out to be an inveterate blogger, so I have been able to get to know her a little bit after the fact. These three people, and many more in the room, shared my sense of urgency for undertaking action to keep indigenous weaving traditions alive.

The TEG group kindly arranged for me to pre-view the spectacular Patterns of Trade: Indian Textiles For Export, 1400–1900 exhibition (15 Nov 2011 - 03 Jun 2012) in the Asian Civilizations Museum just after my talk. The tour with the Southeast Asia curator, David Henkel, was a rather special privilege as the exhibition had not yet opened. Indeed, I would not have wanted to miss it. It was inspiring, spell-binding and endlessly insightful to witness dozens of Indian trade textiles together in one place.

At the end of the day, Digna Ryan, one of the co-ordinators of the TEG group, invited some of us to dinner in her beautiful home: a gracious and delicious send-off before settling into a night of flying.

Thank you, TEG Singapore for an excellent experience.

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