18 Mei 2012

Penjaga Tradisi Pewarna Indigo di Karo

Perjalanan kami di Tanah Karo, melacak jejak masa silam yang mempertemukan Sandra dengan para penjaga tradisi biru Karo (Nande Pringetten, Nande Indra, Nande Pulung). Nande Peringetten sudah meninggal dunia, pun di tangan lainnya tradisi biru sudah tak ada. Banyak yang hilang tradisi tenun Karo, termasuk motif-motif, selain warna-warna asli (catatan MJA Nashir dalam "Berkelana dengan Sandra - Menyusuri Ulos Batak)

Dalam catatan MJA Nashir yang tertuang di dalam buku "Berkelana dengan Sandra – Menyusuri Ulos Batak," ia menemani Sandra Niessen yang telah merangkum hasil kerjanya selama 30 tahun menjadi buku berukuran 23X29 cm setebal 568 halaman dengan judul “Legacy in Cloth – Batak Textiles of Indonesia” (KITLV Press Leiden, 2009). Buku ini merupakan hasil penelitiannya tentang Ulos dan Uis hasil tenunan suku Batak Toba, Simalungun dan Karo.

Sandra kembali dengan nama “Proyek Pulang Kampung 2010,”di mana dengan buku itu ia ingin mengembalikan lagi apa yang telah ia dapati, ia geluti, ia teliti sejak 30 tahun lalu ke masyarakat Batak. Hal ini adalah sesuatu yang luar biasa karena jarang seorang peneliti melakukannya. Jadi lewat pulang kampungnya, ia berusaha menemui kembali semua orang yang pernah ia jumpai di masa lalu, baik para penenun atau keluarganya dan semua huta/kuta yang pernah ia singgahi 30 tahun lalu. Dan Mja Nashir merasa bersyukur dalam “Proyek Pulang Kampung” ini Tuhan telah memberi  kesempatan padanya untuk menjadi saksi atas perjuangan seorang antropolog bernama Sandra Niessen ini.

Terbayang olehnya Sandra yang remaja kala itu menyusuri semua pedalaman Tano Batak, menerobos hutan-hutan, mendaki bukit-bukit atau kadang dengan perahu kecil meluncur di atas Danau Toba. Semua itu ia lakukan untuk menyambangi  partonun, para penenun tradisi yang tinggal di huta-huta.  Oh, ia begitu akrab dengan orang-orang desa itu. Mereka semua telah memperlakukannya seperti keluarga sendiri.  Kehangatan yang disambut kehangatan. Dan sebagian besar huta (kampung) di seantero Tano Batak ia hafal namanya dan telah ia kunjungi semua. Tak ayal jika sampai sekarang ia masih faham semua jenis ulos/uis. Bahkan ragam ulos/uis yang mulai menghilang dari tanah lahirnya sendiri.

Semua kisah perjalanan Sandra kembali menemui para penenun itu dapat dibaca di dalam buku "Berkelana dengan Sandra – Menyusuri Ulos Batak" yang telah beredar di toko-toko buku.

"Berkelana dengan Sandra – Menyusuri Ulos Batak"
Penulis : MJA Nashir
Penerbit: Bergoord Publishing, Fangmanweg 23 Oosterbeek Netherlands, 2011
Berikut ini catatan perjalan Pulang Kampung yang ditulis oleh Sandra Niessen. Dan saya ketika peluncuran buku “Legacy in Cloth – Batak Textiles of Indonesia”di ERASMUIS HUIS, Jakarta tanggal 22 September 2011, sempat bertanya kepada Sandra Niessen, apakah yang ia ingat dari perjalanannya ke Tanah Karo 30 tahun yang lalu. Sandra Niessen berkata, bahwa pewarna indigo dari Tanah Karo memiliki kualitas yang terbaik dan warnanya paling kuat. Bahkan penenun di luar Tanah Karo saat Sandra datang ke Kabanjahe 30 tahun lalu, datang khusus ke Kabanjahe untuk menemui pembuat warna indigo ini. Hasil tenunan mereka akan dicelupkan di Kabanjahe.

“Legacy in Cloth – Batak Textiles of Indonesia” (KITLV Press Leiden, 2009)
by Sandra Niessen
Saat itu Sandra bertemu dengan Nande Pringetten, Nande Indra dan Nande Pulung. Ketiganya berdomisili di Kabanjahe. Ketiganya adalah penjaga tradisi biru Karo. Sayangnya 28 tahun kemudian ketika Sandra kembali ke Kabanjahe dalam proyek Pulang Kampung ini, Sandra mendapatlan kabar Nande Peringetten sudah meninggal dunia dan di tangan lainnya tradisi biru sudah tak ada. Sandra mendapatkan kenyataan banyak yang hilang dari tradisi tenun Karo, termasuk motif-motif, selain warna-warna asli.

Dan Sandra sebelum meninggalkan Tanah Karo menyempatkan diri untuk meninggalkan 1 eksemplar Legacy in cloth dan beberapa foto motif-motif asli Karo di workshop pertenunan ATBM Trias Tambun agar setidaknya motif-motif ini masih bisa hidup kembali.

Berikut ini tulisan Sandra ketika ia kembali ke Tanah Karo :

The Last Day of the Project

I made it back to the Karo dyers on the eleventh hour: the last day of the Back to the Villages project (June 26). Back to where the project had begun.

Nande Pulung was at home preparing to go to a pesta (ritual) so she and her husband were dressed in their finery. The large sitting room was empty except for a few chairs and several large sacks. During the course of our visit, someone came to bring Nande Pulung some ikat-tied yarn to dye and she stuffed it in one of the sacks. The other sacks, as it turned out, were filled with dyed yarn.

She explained that it was no longer possible to work with natural dyestuffs (i.e. indigo). The village that had provided the tajem (indigo plant) had decided to use the land to cultivate truck crops. (I often say that in the Karo area the onions are the reason for the decline in textiles.) Even when I asked if I could order indigo–dyed yarn and pay for it well, even if I supplied the indigo, she claimed that she would not be able to fill the order because “the materials were not available.” It was unclear which materials these might be.

She remembered me, my thank-you letter to her from 24 years ago and everything we did during my visit. She seemed happy and thankful for this follow-up visit and looked long and hard at the photograph of the giver, Tim Babcock (who encouraged her to pass on her skills; see blog Last Gasp).  Her husband read Tim’s message aloud in Indonesian and then explained it to her in Karo Batak.

She and her husband also closely examined the photograph that I had brought with me of a rare Karo textile in the Tom Murray collection, but she did not recognize it. She identified the ikat as bayubayu dua lapis and the stripes as kayuna, but could not assign a specific name to the cloth. She told me to visit the owner of the ATBM workshop (with semi-mechanical looms) close by as he wanted to revive old patterns. In addition to the weaving that he does, he dyes ikat patterns in yarn.

We went off to visit him immediately but he was not at home. We gave a copy of the book to one of his employees and his sister. Of course, I had mixed feelings about this presentation because my intent has always been to give the book to weavers (they referred to the backstrap loom technique using the word gedogan), but I gave the gift deliberately and with resolve, hoping that Helmy de Korver, the donor of the book, would support my choice. I assumed that the owner of this little factory was a textile enthusiast because of his reputation for trying to revive old patterns. The chances are good that he will value the catalogue portion of the book. He could well be someone who, if he has enough capital, will conduct textile experiments that can usher the craft into the future. (Oil companies, for instance, are at the forefront of research in solar energy. May that represent a parallel!) This is a time of planting experimental seeds. I hope to visit him again in the future to see if this seed has fallen on fertile ground. [I am now at home in The Netherlands before this blog has been posted. I came home to a gratifying thank you note from Mr. Tambun on my email!]

The presentation to the ATBM workshop owned by Ir. S. Tambun in Kaban Jahe. 
His sister is looking at the photos that I brought of Tom Murray's  unusual textile. 
Nobody had ever seen that textile before -- but they knew that they could replicate it!
Giving the book to Mama Eka, Nande Peringitten's daughter-in-law
From there we went to Nande Peringitten’s house. It had not changed at all and although Nande Peringitten died 15 years ago, two of the young people in the photograph with her were still living there (her grandson and daughter-in-law). Her daughter-in-law (Mamak Eka) had taken over the business -- except for the indigo dye component. Her explanation corroborated Nande Pulung’s and Nande Indra’s story: this dye technique was just not viable anymore. Moreover, Mamak Eka had to supplement her income by raising pigs, just as Nande Peringitten had done. I presented a book to her in the name of my friend, Heather Wilson, and asked her to show it to as many people as possible. Nande Peringitten’s descendants shared the general regret that indigo was no longer used, explaining that the natural dye yielded much more beautiful results than the synthetic dye.

From there, we returned to the market to meet up with Nande Indra to whom I had promised a book a few weeks earlier (see blog Last Gasp). Unfortunately, she had gone to the same pesta (ritual event) as Nande Pulung. Her granddaughter in her market stall explained that she had never received my telephone message that I would not be able to visit that evening a few weeks before and she had waited up for me until deep in the night. She was terribly disappointed when I didn’t show up. I was pleased to be able to alleviate that disappointment by handing over a copy of the book in the name of Pamela Cross – a textile lover who is very faithful and punctual and almost never disappoints anyone by failing to live up to her promises.

Last Gasp

Kaban Jahe. For centuries, because of the market, this town has been a centre of indigo dyeing for the Karo Batak. I wanted to see what had become of this activity and give books to the dyers that I wrote about in Legacy. The first stop was the market. The textile proprietors would be able to give me their addresses.

I was warmly received, but was very sad to note that not a single indigo-dyed piece was available to purchase. Moreover, all of the blue pieces that I looked at had been woven in Tarutung for the Karo market and the quality was low. Nothing was reminiscent of the thick, sumptuous teba and julu textile types of the past.

Nande Pulung, the proprietors told me, was still dyeing yarn. Jalan Irian, they said, in front of the SMA RK. It wasn’t far away, but Nande Pulung was in Medan attending to a sick child. Her neighbour, Nande Indra, who used to come over and assist with the dyeing, had become a market seller, they told me at Nande Pulung’s house, so off we went back to the market to hunt for her.

I found her sitting quietly and alone in her stall. I handed her the laminated page of Legacy in which she is depicted (p. 129) and sat down with her.

Nande Indra in her market stall at Kaban Jahe, June 2010
She tried to recall that moment 24 years ago and reminisced about the textile that she had that day on her head. It had been her mother’s and was from Aceh.

Nande Indra and Nande Pulung, Karo dyers, 1986.  Fig SR 3.8 Page 129 Legacy in cloth
What she told me amounts to the story about the last gasp of indigo dyeing in the Karo area: she had stopped working with Nande Pulung long ago; Nande Pulung had stopped dyeing with natural indigo ten to fifteen years ago; she didn’t know if Nande Peringitten was still alive; the elderly woman in Kampong Kwala near Tiga Binanga had passed away; there was nobody left in Karo who worked with natural dyes, and the people in Kampong Tanjung had ceased to cultivate tajem, their indigo plant. The tradition was dead.

This is a momentous fact. The Karo, the “blue Batak” had once been renowned for their indigo dyeing and had provided for needs all the way to Si Tolu Huta (Tongging, Silalahi and Paropo). They were the only Batak to practice plangi and tritik because they wanted to decorate the imported white cotton that they dyed blue. I think that they were also the only Batak to cultivate the indigo plant. (According to my information the Toba tradition harvested a wild salaon growing on the hillsides.)

Decline set in early in the twentieth century. Sitting there in the market, talking with Nande Indra, it was beginning to sink in. The Karo dyers whom I met while researching Legacy: Nande Pulung, Nande Indra and Nande Peringitten in Kaban Jahe and the elderly weaver in Kampong Kwala, were the last ones in this great tradition. And it had slipped away, not with a bang but a whimper!

Nande Pulung was the only dyer left in Kaban Jahe and she now worked strictly with chemical dyes. I have a book ready to give to her as soon as she returns from Medan. For her, I selected the message from donor Tim Babcock who emphasized the importance of passing on knowledge to the younger generation:

Batak weavings give immense pleasure not only to people in
Indonesia but also to textile lovers all over the world. Please
keep dyeing beautiful high quality ulos as long as you are
able, and pass your skills on to as many of the younger
generation as you can!

I will ask her if she is willing to demonstrate indigo for the Dutch weavers whom I will bring with me next year to the Batak area to learn about the Batak traditions. Clearly, only a financial incentive can revive this tradition.

Sumber tulisan :
Dari blog Sandra Niessen : Bataktextiles.blogspot.com

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