This month I would like to introduce Arpapun Jokowidjaja who is a Thai businesswoman, married to Chandra Hartono Jokowidjaja, an Indonesian business man who exports Thai rice to Indonesia. Arpapan Jokowidjaja is a volunteer for many projects in Thailand. She is also passionate in collecting antiques, Thai silk and other textiles in Thailand.
Here is the interview.
JY: Please tell us about your previous community activities.
AJ: Beginning with my first year of international curriculum at Mahidol University in Thailand, I participated in several voluntary projects. When I was in the third year of my study, I was the president of a rural area development voluntary club. Every year we set out to teach young children in rural areas such as Fang District, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Thai District, Phitsanulok Thailand. We also helped looking after the young orphans at Phaya Thai Orphanage in Bangkok once a week. Back then I was young and had no income, I dedicated my time and physical labor to help the underprivileged. Until we gained more income and have no financial problems, we would be ready to provide what the community is still lacking according to our capabilities.
After my graduation from the university, I mainly started working and taking care of my own family. I was quite distant from volunteering jobs and could only spend just a bit of my time for them. My hope was to be ready for something we love to do once again.
After a while, I came back to do more volunteering jobs. This time my focus was on the three southern border provinces: Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. I opened the fan page “Palungjai Su Chaidaentai (Help the 3 southern border provinces)” to provide more information about the project and gather help. I extended my existing work to other provinces throughout Thailand especially provinces suffering from natural disasters. I also opened another fan page “Palungjai Thailand (Help Thailand)”
Initially, I usually packed some food and necessary supplies to help raise morale for the police and soldiers who were stationed in three southern provinces starting from just 10 boxes to the full capacity of a few train compartments. Not only for the morale of officers, we also provide many things and help in many forms to villagers, the disabled, the elderly, young students through both fan pages.
Moreover, every year we set up the youth camp to invite young children from three southern provinces to have a study trip in Bangkok and do activities together. During the new year we help prepare some activities for the children’s day. In public holidays such as father’s and mother’s days we organize some charitable activities. Recently, every new semester we work as patrons for Methiwutthikorn School in Lamphun Province for the young novices and poor students. I am also appointed by the monk dean of Lamphun province to be one of this school’s committee members.
For the last three years, I have had an interest to have in-depth study about Thai textiles and Thai stuff and a passion to collect and use these items in daily life. For me, this is more than conservation and cultural inheritance because it is how we can encourage people to produce Thai textiles and local products with the standard quality and we would like to support people. In my view, I would like Thai people to wear more Thai textiles and use local products. This could help the Thai textiles business to flourish and thus the products will be beautiful and more stylish. Personally, I buy and wear these Thai textiles myself to recommend to people about such spectacular clothing for more style adaptations and improvements. For this, I also opened another fan page about Thai textiles “Suay Chuay Chard (Beauty helps Country)”.
JY: What is your view about wearing Thai clothing?
AJ: As a former consumer of brand name clothing and handbags, I am wholeheartedly fascinated in Thai textiles and I am determined to continue the wish of the queen mother Sirikit who reintroduced and supported Thai textiles, one of the core roots of Thai culture, to be with Thailand and Thai people as long as possible. I finally relinquished all my favorite brand name handbags and clothing and sold them off before deciding to use Thai products and wear Thai clothing in both traditional style and contemporary style. For my own motto, I used to collect some popular brand name products which are considered quite luxurious and expensive by many who recognized the brand. Thai products, on the contrary, have less fame and cheaper prices but I feel proud to use them. At first many people around me might think my decision is too strange but finally they will be accustomed to it and understand my style of
choosing apparel. I attempt to mix and adapt my Thai style clothes to look good and fashionable. Now I know that wearing Thai clothing is not old-fashioned anymore.
Previously we might see that Thai clothing is too distant and irrelevant to us because the majority of Thai elderly women wear them. Some Thai younger women are concerned they will look older and they think Thai clothing does not match their own character. Once I also had that thought like them. At first, I had to pass some trials and errors about selecting the right piece of Thai clothing before going out. Many years ago, I just wore a matching set of western clothing without worry about my appearance but now I have to be more thoughtful before wearing Thai clothing as I want to present the graceful side of the Thai textiles. Actually, there is no most beautiful piece of cloth for all circumstances. It really depends on the particular individual in the specific time and place. I’ve heard the common saying that “Not only a piece of cloth selects a suitable person,
but the person also selects the suitable piece of cloth”. In my view, Thai cotton, Thai silk and Thai textiles are all precious whether they are old or newly made. Some old pieces of Thai clothing are historically important and meaningful. I am also interested in reading about history of Thailand and other countries. This is the reason why I am the collector of old Thai clothing and Thai antiques.
JY: Please tell us about your impression of the Queen Mother Sirikit who supports Thai textiles.
AJ: Queen Mother Sirikit is not only a supporter of Thai textiles, she is also an exemplary individual who has graceful demeanor and kindness. One of the reasons why I gave up brand name products and turned to use Thai products wholeheartedly is because of a tragic incident in Thailand three years ago on 13 October 2016. Thai people lost King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. For us, we felt truly heartbroken and everything seemed motionless. Everyone was in a state of shock and grieving. For many days, many of us cried while we watched old documentaries about King Bhumibhol Adulyadej and his projects. As I am one of the younger generations of people who was born when both the King Bhumibhol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit were getting old, I am not too excited or eager to know about the daily activities of the royal family from the news on television but the news of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej’s passing
changed my own perspective.
Many decades ago, King Bhumibhol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit went abroad to establish diplomatic relationships among several countries for the first time. A small country like Thailand was in the eyes of many nations. Many famous magazines and newspapers wrote news articles about their official visits. With the determination to promote Thai textiles to the world stage, Queen Sirikit succeeded in her intentions. During 1960 -1970, Thai silk was the material for several brands of western clothing and became very popular. Coupled with her visionary, superb fashion sense and her benevolence to Thai people, the queen tried to support and restore the local wisdom in Thai clothing to provide more income for the villagers. Her intention is to preserve Thai culture, art and handicrafts as well as Thai local wisdom. She believes building a nation with sustainable development must retain the root of the nation as well as develop new
technologies. By doing this, the nation will not be at risk to be easily converted by a globalized world. This is why Queen Mother Sirikit is someone I revere so much and has been my role model.
Three years after no longer using brand name products, I seriously started using Thai products for the first time. There were tons of limitations that made me want to almost give up. Pondering about the kindness of the Queen Mother Sirikit, I discarded that depressing thought and was encouraged every time whenever I faced some troubles. I was just thinking and comprehending these problems slowly and trying to find more knowledge and information about what was problematic what we disliked. Then some minor improvement will be constantly made.
Personally, I do not mind other people’s opinions but I do like to accept constructive comments whether good or bad. I do not care who looks down on me but I must never disrespect myself. Wearing brand name clothing is good but that time is no more. Thai clothing is good without any brand as I have to think about the matching aesthetics of what I am wearing. I agree that my thinking is too much and I squander too much money but shopping might be one of the happiest things many women could do. My intention is to dress beautifully in Thai style and my money would help the community. To satisfy myself, I could wear anything I want to without worrying about the latest fashion trend as it was sometimes tiresome and too expensive.
The Queen Mother Sirikit has always been supporting and trying to restore the art of handicrafts which is nearly forgotten. As a Thai citizen who is loyal to the monarchy, my own promise is to follow her steps by carrying on her projects as well as I can. It might not be the best but I try my hardest to achieve this to remind me about kindness of the previous king and queen of Thailand. Thai silk becomes something I am so proud of and a choice for my working attire. I can attest that its beauty is unquestionable.
JY: What are you going to do next for publicizing Thai textiles.
AJ: At the present I collect some old and new Thai textiles as well as textiles from neighboring countries. To be honest, keeping old clothing is very difficult and some of them were badly torn beyond mending but I have to keep them. In the future I would like to build a small gallery to be a textiles museum and other old collectibles with corresponding history for newer generations of people to study. As a common person, I cannot do something much but I only wish to support, promote and wear Thai clothing. I would be glad to keep some valuable old clothing and preserve Thai art and culture.
In my opinion, Thai textiles are unique and never old-fashioned. They can tell a lot about the personality of the wearer because each piece of Thai textile is beautifully woven. It really depends on how we put on our clothing to make it more suitable for the modern lifestyle.