Saturday, March 22, 2014

Maximizing Time with Mikro and Mini

Febrina (left) and Lasma (right) meeting again for the first time since
the Pulang Kampung III expedition. They are filled with joy.
It was fun to be with Mikro and Mini during the Weaving Workshop. They are sweet girls, fun, and independent of spirit while also being dutiful, faithful and respectful. Neither of them has it easy. They are bound by strong ties of love and responsibility to their respective Moms.
Lasma's mom is a former weaver. She made this traditional Simalungun
headcloth -- every part of it, including the twined edging.
In both cases, their Mom is ill with no expectation of recovery. This limits the girls precisely during that phase in their lives when they should be carefree and spreading their wings. Both are bright and talented – and frustrated. This is compounded by the social circumstances in the Batak region: the villages are impoverished and in decline, with few opportunities for growth and learning.
Febrina was in her city 'kampung' already to go when we pulled up.

Until now, their sense of their options has been very limited.

I have given a tremendous amount of thought to Lasma and Febrina’s situations and we had the opportunity to talk about it at length with each other. I continually asked them what they perceived their needs and goals to be for a good future. Realistically.

I wanted their time at the workshop to be meaningful on multiple levels. On one hand, I wanted the girls to have a happy, carefree time, experience a vacation and a bit of relaxation. If nothing else, I hoped that they will at least gain happy memories to bask in.
On the way to the workshop we stopped on the side of the road to
purchase and savour some durian fruits.
On the other hand, I wanted them to have experiences on which they could build their future. Even if they can’t ever join the mainstream world of gaining an education and 'getting a job', I encouraged them to see alternatives. I tried to expose them to choices that other people have made and to the wealth of their own cultural heritage.

In this regard, I sent Lasma information about design possibilities for the (resist-dyed) Batu Jala textile long before my arrival. She has become excited by these options.
Lasma dyed her first textile during the
Weaver Workshop.
 I sent Febrina information about the little bags that the Batak used to make centuries ago using the twining technique. 
Febrina examines the twined bag illustrated in Legacy in cloth.

Febrina started to play with techniques that she remembered learning as
a child.

We talked at length about techniques for reconstructing the bag. Are there similarities with basketry? We looked for baskets to examine construction techniques and talked about who could help with this technical/design challenge. I talked with both about potential markets and promised them I would use my own network to market their products. We googled together and explored pages on facebook. They now both have computers and through these pieces of technology they have access to endless sources of inspiration.
They now both have similar computers. 

I try to build their sense of personal capacity to make choices and achieve goals. We laughed a lot about the Pulang Kampung III expedition and noted that they appeared in media across Indonesia as a result of it. The point is: we had few resources besides a will to execute the project, and yet we succeeded. I exhorted them to never forget this feather in their caps and to use it as a platform for realizing their dreams.
I love this picture of the 'twins'. Febrina is examining
a textile, but it is Lesma reflected in the mirror.
When we parted this time around, I invited them to think about what we had done together. We have visited people and places, seen experiments and heard about dreams. Their network has broadened. They have each other to talk about ideas and to reflect on the experiences they have had. We have talked about dreams and possibilities. They have computers now and access to internet and thus the whole world. They have learned more about weaving and twining and their creative juices are flowing. 
Lasma learned to wind the warp of a textile from Ompu Ruth.

Lasma trying her hand at warping a textile.

They have a ready-made market (in me and my friends) if they choose to explore this avenue further. I told them that I didn’t know when I will be in North Sumatra again but they have the tools to go forward on their own. I wished them luck and promised them my on-going support but said that further initiative must come from them. I promised to help them with further education if that was their choice.
Lasma showed us a bag that she had made to
salvage an old textile partly nibbled on by mice.

Febrina wrote an interesting status on her Facebook page this week, something about it being time to get cracking. I wish her and Lasma Godspeed.
Febrina and Lasma with seeds of the indigo plant.


  1. A lovely blog on Febrina and Lasma! I wish them every success on whatever pathway they choose. Perhaps most important is to wish them strength, courage and growing confidence as they start on their journey. With hindsight it is easy to see what should be done but it is most definitely not so as the first tentative footsteps are taken! I remember well my own haltering footsteps as I tried to find my own pathway. Good Luck!

  2. Dear Pamela, you are so right! Those first tentative steps are the hardest. They may look simple but they are the result of so much thought about self, the future, capacities. Thank you for your kind wishes for them.