Loyok – hold on to the string
The younger generation has less interest, that is the problem, he laughs. He runs the business for various decades now and learned the craft from his grandfather.
He and his four brothers have now all a handcraft workplace and shop in bamboo basketry and rattan, grass, and other materials weaver. But being decades in the business, he has seen the good and the bad times, he explains while he does not stop smiling.
He lightens a cigarette. Do you smoke? He asks. I do not, and I continue focussing on the basket I am weaving while he sips of his cigarette. He continues talking with the young guy in Bahasi, or in Lombok. I don’t know the difference, but they speak both for sure. Bahasi is the Indonesian official language which they learn in school, Lombok is the language the people on the Island of Lombok speak, and English is how they communicate with me. Or sign language as the women is trying to teach me how to weave the basket.
In the meantime, I’m watching the old lady in front of me, hours now she continues waving her basket while being disrupted even once. Her concentration is admirable and so is the movement of her fingers, rapid and agile as if they were just started.
Sometimes he interrupts me to explain something more, or I stop to ask another question. I am not like the skilled women who can do the task fast and even while having a conversation or -as he explains – watch the television.
The summer of ‘68
He explains how the baskets before only where used by the people in the village, like a common object of use. ‘Until 1968,’ he remembers, ‘as from then infrastructure got better and people find their way to the village. That’s the moment we start realising these objects could be made as well for sale, and not only for our own use.’
The village of Loyok became the village known for the bamboo basketry. ‘It is part of our culture, of our identity,’ he continues proudly, ‘Nobody can sell you the same objects as you can find here. They can sell bamboo baskets, but they won’t have the same pattern, the same structure, the same type of handcraft, the same identity and story.’
And so has every village around the village of Tetebatu its own story and identity. The villages don’t compete with one or another but support each other in developing each their own strength. And so does the government, who exempts the bamboo baskets of Loyok for taxes, so it can more easily export it.
However, the main export market for the moment is Bali, at least for this owner. However, he tries to go on-line, explore the new markets, the advantages of the globalised world. By not only selling his products on the digital space with no special limits, but as well all to Europe, without national limits. Yet, there are some difficulties he has to overcome still, such as international payment methods.
But he is ambitious and determined to keep the tradition and art (craft) of his village alive. Despite the younger generation losing interest, he keeps his head up, and find new ways as the online marketplace, and even created a B&B where tourists can get immersed in the craft of his village.
Watching the women weaving the various materials, loosen strings to solid useful and beautiful objects, I would love to help him out for his business to survive. Moreover, I wished I could tell him to hold on, because soon there will come a wave on which his business can surf. I know there will, but that, I will explain in the next blogpost.