On the way back from the Workshop Tenun in Muara, I got a phonecall when we were about two hours away from Muara. It was Restuala. Someone had come to Muara in search of me and he was doing his PhD on ulos. Would I stop and wait for him to catch up so that he could talk to me?
We ended up meeting in a restaurant in Parapat.
His name was Oktober Aritonang. He knew friends of mine in Tarutung. When he learned I was in North Sumatra, he skipped church, jumped in his car, and rushed off to Muara – only to be disappointed because I had already gone. He was doing a PhD in Education and he had chosen to explore modern educational audiovisual techniques to teach the weaving of a Batak ulos. He was sad that Batak weaving is in decline. He wanted a student to be able to learn how to weave an ulos just by using his videos and exercise books. He has spent many years developing his educational materials. Now he wants to finally get his PhD degree and start piloting his educational materials.
I told him about the plans of Del highschool to introduce weaving into the curriculum. The two parties could be of great help to each other.
Mr. Aritonang expressed some frustration at not finding support for his research. He had paid for all of it from his own pocket. The Batak people are sad that their textile tradition is disappearing but no fund has as yet been established to change the tide.