Saturday, October 05, 2013


The day starts earlier in Indonesia than it does in Holland, so when I wake up in the morning, I like to check my email and Facebook messages first thing to get up to speed. This morning was very special because of a message from Ojak Tampe Silaban, one of the four young people on the Pulang Kampung III team. 

Ojak is full of the unexpected. (Photo by MJA Nashir on the DEL University campus.)
He said that he had given a copy of Rangsa ni Tonun to Sihol Malau, that he had told her in colourful detail about our adventures and that he had spent the night in her house. This message went straight to my heart.

Sihol Malau is the Ompu ni Sihol’s granddaughter, indeed, the one after whom Ompu ni Sihol is named. Several of Ompu ni Sihol’s grandchildren played in the village plain when I took my weaving lessons with her. They wound her weft, scared her pig, the dog and chickens away from her loom, fetched salaon (indigo plant) with me on the hillside, chewed the kemiri nut and spat it in the can when Ompu ni Sihol needed it for her starching solution (she had no teeth). I didn’t know them well. I was 24 at the time and was more focused on my weaving notes than on these children.

But now that granddaughter Sihol has Rangsa ni Tonun, my heart is very glad. I imagine her playing the film and hearing Ompu ni Sihol’s cracking old voice as the origin of the theme song of the film. I can see her open the book that I wrote about the film and find the picture of her grandmother. I can imagine her feelings. How I would love to find my own grandmother in a book!

Thank you, Ojak Tampe, for giving such a good start to my day. I look forward to seeing the photographs that you took.

The day of the launch of the Boat Budaya comes back to me. Saturday August 24. We were crazy busy setting up a stall where we could offer our books and posters for sale, dealing with some last-minute upsets and preparing for the afternoon event in which Ibu Stephanie’s textiles would be officially handed over to Museum Tekstil. Amidst all of that, I went over to the huge Batak house at the corner of the North Sumatran village of Taman Mini to review the exhibition and make sure there were enough copies of the Bhinneka Tabloid (about our activities) on hand for visitors. A young woman came up to me. She introduced herself as Harna. And then time stopped.

Stephanie Belfrage's textiles were displayed beautifully by the Museum Tekstil staff in the Batak house of Taman Mini. (Photo by MJA Nashir)
I looked at her. She looked at me. We were both speechless. Then we hugged each other for a long time. I know Harna through Facebook. She is another one of Ompu ni Sihol’s granddaughters. Legacy in cloth brought us together. After I had presented the book to her brother in 2010 (a gift from the book’s designer, Marie-Cécile Noordzij Pulles), it eventually made its way to her in Medan. She has now moved to Jakarta and made the effort to come to our launch. Meeting her was one of the most memorable moments of the launch.

The meeting took place surrounded by photographs of the Pulang Kampung I the journey when I gave a copy of  Legacy in cloth to Ompu ni Sihol's family.  (Photograph (and photo exhibition) by MJA Nashir.)

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