Dough Sculpting the Java Way—

A Migrant Worker Kneads Her Dreams

2017 / November

Chen Chun-fang /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Faul

Traditional dough sculpture from China has its origins in the culture of sacrificial rites. The first forms were shaped from rice flour dough to take the place of animals, like pigs and fish, that people were no longer willing to kill as offerings. Today these figurines have evolved into collectible miniatures of all kinds, including animal motifs and cartoon characters. And now a migrant worker from Indonesia has not only learned this traditional folk art, but even infused it with themes from her own culture such as Javanese wedding attire or Gamelan musical instruments. Her exquisite and colorful dough sculptures are like glorious sparks released by the convergence of cultures.

During weekends and holidays in the main concourse of the Tai­pei Railway Station or at craft markets large and small around Tai­chung you are likely to come across this radiant young woman wearing a traditional ke­ru­dung. Clothed in Indonesian dress and speaking Bahasa Indonesia, her hands are occupied with a traditional folk craft popular in Taiwan, sculpting dough figures. Her name is Pindy Windy, a migrant worker from Indonesia. “This is a bride and groom in central Javanese wedding dress, and that is a scene from my childhood, riding to school on the back of a water buffalo across the rice paddies.” A good many people have been introduced to Indonesian culture through Pindy’s enthusiastic descriptions of her dough works.   

Leaving home

Pindy is the eldest daughter of a Central Javanese family. After graduating from high school she told her father that she wanted to help the family by working abroad. Her first stop was nearby Singapore, to practice English and gain some work experience. After a year she returned to Indonesia to study Chinese and to learn the proper skills for taking care of invalid patients and small children. Her next assignment was in Taiwan.

Pindy recounts her first work experience in Taiwan, “I took care of an elderly woman in Yilan without talking for six months.” Not having a very good command of Chinese, she feared saying the wrong thing and rarely opened her mouth to speak throughout her first half year in Taiwan. With the support of her employer, who suggested she watch Chinese-language television and encouraged her to speak out and learn by practice, along with her own active learning through reading and study, she eventually mastered Chinese and even understands Taiwanese.

She returned to Indonesia with her hard-earned savings after reaching the three-year limit under the regulations for migrant workers at that time. She stayed there for five years, during which time she got married and gave birth to two children. But what should have been a happy life back home ended in divorce. 

Losing all before finding dough

Pindy’s husband spent all her savings, making her a penniless single mom struggling to bring up two small children. She wanted a better life for her two-year-old toddler and less than a year old infant, and so she made the difficult choice to place them in the care of her own mother while she went to Taiwan for work. Pindy’s eyes well up with tears as she tells the story of parting from her children. 

This time in Taiwan, Pindy was once again assigned work as a caregiver, but what she didn’t anticipate was how a spell nursing her patient in a hospital would open the door on a whole new life.

In the neighboring bed an elderly woman was being attended to by her son, Young Ching­jen, a master in the art of dough sculpture. Young, who understood the endless hours of hard work that go into invalid care and had long been deeply committed to the issues of migrant workers, invited Pindy to take on dough sculpting as a leisure activity to help her unwind. 

At first Pindy just thought it was fun and didn’t consider her toy figures all that attractive. Through Young’s constant encouragement and her first attempts at crafting subjects from Indonesian culture, though, Pindy soon discovered a passion for the art form.

There are essentially five pigments used in dough sculpture: red, white, blue, yellow and black. In order to bring out the vivid colors of the traditional wedding attire worn in her native land, Pindy studied advanced color-mixing techniques with Young. For example, if she had a need for the color brown, she could make it by mixing yellow, red and black into the sculpting media. Colorful hues in a variety of shades and tones can all be achieved by adjusting the ratio of the basic colors used.

Pindy’s skillful hands have transformed subjects that combine memories of her local region with photos of Indonesia from all over, into dough sculptures. Her creations capture the distinctive essence of her native culture. The subject matter for Pindy’s creations is replenished from the deep wells of diverse cultural content that originates in the myriad islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

Kneading hope to share joy

Pindy doesn’t only make dough figures on request for friends, but has also gotten many of her migrant-work sisters involved in the craft. She relates how Indonesia also has a similar craft but the quality is not as good as Taiwan’s. If these minutely detailed and highly malleable dough miniatures were to incorporate Indonesian themes they would surely add to the appeal of Indonesia’s tourist destinations. Their contribution to employment opportunities within the country might also have a transformative effect upon the fate of her fellow Indonesians, currently forced to seek work overseas. With this in mind venues such as the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in Taipei and Taichung’s ASEAN Square have welcomed educational visits by Pindy the dough sculptor. Even during holiday visits back to Indonesia she takes time out to promote her craft by teaching small children dough sculpting at kindergartens.

In April of this year, through the support of Taiwanese friends, Pindy organized a dough figurine exhibition, “Fingers Creating Brilliance,” in Tai­chung. At the invitation of the Tai­chung City Government she also organized an Indonesian Pageant at the city’s Bazaar Asia Tenggara (ASEAN Market) in August. The event showcased Indonesian fashion, music, dance and ethnic cuisine, successfully realizing ­Pindy’s hope of giving her Taiwan-based compatriots a stage to promote greater understanding of Indonesian culture amongst the people of Taiwan.   

Pindy’s passion for helping her fellow Indonesians has earned her the sobriquet of “teacher” amongst many of her country’s migrant workers in Taiwan. In the view of  Young Ching­jen, Pindy’s determination and focused effort have resulted in unique works that stand out from the crowd. For the future, Pindy will continue to promote dough sculpture in both countries, with plans in the future to open a small shop in Indonesia. When viewing Pindy’s extreme focus and confidence in sculpting dough we can see in her an example of unfettered hope.

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文‧陳群芳 圖‧林格立
























文・陳群芳 写真・林格立 翻訳・山口 雪菜

捏麺人(小麦粉の人形)は祭祀文化から生まれた。お供えのための殺生をせず、水を加えた小麦粉を練って豚や魚の形にしたものを祭祀の生贄としたのである。それが近代になって、可愛らしい動物や人形、 アニメのキャラクターなども作られようになり、多くの人の幼い頃の記憶に残っている。現在、インドネシアから台湾に働きに来ているピンディさんは、この中華の伝統工芸を学び、そこへ自分の文化を融合させた。彼女が作る捏麺人は、ジャワ島の結婚式や、ガムランの伝統楽器などだ。その人形たちは、二つの文化がぶつかって生まれた美しい火花と言えるだろう。









貯蓄は夫に使われてしまい、一人で二人の子供を育てることになったピンディさんは、子供たちに少しでも良い生活をさせたいと考えた。そこで 辛い思いに耐えて、2歳と1歳に満たない子供を母親に預け、再び一人で台湾に渡ってきた。子供と別れた時の話になると、ピンディさんは目を赤く腫らした。

台湾では以前と同様、介護の仕事に就いたが、病院で付き添い介護をしていた時、思いがけず たな人生が始まった。

隣のベッドの患者の家族が、捏麺人職人の楊清 仁だったのである。もともと移住労働者に関心を寄せていた楊清仁は、彼女に捏麺人づくりを教え始めたのである。






捏麺人づくりに夢中になったピンディさんは、 友人に頼まれて制作するだけでなく、同じく海外 から働きに来ている人々も誘って一緒に作るようになった。彼女によると、インドネシアにもこれに似た工芸品があるが、台湾の捏麺人ほど質は良くないという。小さくて変化に富んだ捏麺人はコレクションもしやすく、インドネシアの風土や文化を表現できれば、母国で観光客に売ることもで きる。そうすれば現地の雇用も増え、郷里の人々が海外へ働きに行く必要もなくなる。

こうしてピンディさんは、駐台北インドネシア経済貿易代表処や台中ASEAN広場(東協広 場)、クリエイターズマーケットなどで捏麺人づくりを教えるようになった。休暇で母国に帰った時には幼稚園などでも教え、普及に努めている。

週末に友人と台北駅のロビーに集まる時も、彼女は捏麺人の材料を持っていき、無料で多くの人に教えている。行き交う内外の旅行客も、異国情緒あふれる彼女の作品を目にして足を止 め、国境を越えた人の輪が広がる。

今年4月、ピンディさんは友人の協力を得て台中で 捏麺人の個展を開催した。インドネシア各地の色彩豊かな婚礼衣装や、 伝統音楽ガムランの楽器など、すばらしい作品が並んだ。さらに8 月には台中市に招かれ、ASEAN市場のBazaar Asia Tenggaramでインドネシアフェアを開催した。インドネシア伝統衣装のファッションショーや伝統舞踊、楽団の演奏や料理の屋台なども出て、大いににぎ わった。ピンディさんは、これを通して同胞に自分を表現する舞台を提供し、また台湾の人々にインドネシア文化に触れてもらいたいと考 えたのである。

同郷の人々に熱心に力を貸す彼女は、インドネシアから働きに来た人々の間で「先生」と呼ばれている。楊清仁は、ピンディさんの真面目さが捏麺人に素晴らしい特色と輝きをあたえているという。今後、彼女は移住労働者のためのイベントを続け、捏麺人づくりを推進し、いつかインドネシアで捏麺人で小さな商売をしたいと考えている。 その自信に満ちた真剣な表情に、私たちは無限の希望を感じることができた。


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