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Batak references

I am very grateful for the information on the Toba Batak, especially their textile tradions, which I have received as personal communications from Vera Tobing and her daughter Maria and which informs this web article on the Vera Tobing collection of ulos. The following references have underpinned my research and are referred to in the sections on the Batak and on their textiles. In particular Sandra A Niessen's 1985, 1993 and 2009 texts have proved invaluable. I was fortunate to be introduced to Sandra during my research and I will be for ever grateful to her for her enthusiasm for the project and the generosity with which she shared the fruits of her 30 years of research on the Batak and their textiles. However, any errors in the text on this website are strictly my own.

My study of Vera Tobing's family history has, in turn, brought the information on the Batak contained in the texts listed below to life for me.

"Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia" by Sandra A. Niessen published in 2009 by KITLV Press, Leiden, ISBN 978 90 6718 351 2. Based on 30 years of research on Batak textiles it presents a very well-illustrated survey of all of extant Batak textile types, those found currently in Sumatra Utara as well as those stored in museums. The book documents, in minute detail, the history of the development of the design of the cloths, and the way they are constructed. It will be an important addition to the academic literature on Indonesian textiles as well as providing information for museums and collectors to identify and document their collections.
"Batak Cloth and Clothing: A Dynamic Indonesian Tradition" by Sandra A Niessen in series 'The Asia Collection' published by Oxford University Press in 1993 ISBN 967-65-3040-9. The book examines factors which inspired the Batak to wear Malay and European styles on a daily basis and to reserve the use of their hipcloths and shouldercloths for ceremonial occasions. An excellent study of the change in Batak life from the mid-19th Century to the late 20th Century from the first missionaries, the Dutch colonisation and the independence of Indonesia. (Niessen 1993)
"Exchanging Warp in the Batak Ragidup and Bulang" by Sandra A Niessen in The Textile Museum Journal Volumes 27 and 28 1988 and 1989 published in 1990. ISSN 0083-7407. Article on warp exchange - both extension and substitution of the Toba and Simulgan Batak following on from the Gittinger 1975 article and based on Niessen's 1980s' research amongst Batak weavers.
"Motifs of Life in Toba Batak Texts and Textiles" by Sandra A Niessen published by Foris Publications in 1985 ISBN 90-6765-067-6. Based on Niessen's PhD dissertation. The role of textiles in Batak culture examining their role in mythology, the kinship system and local conceptions of fertility, time, and space. Pays special attention to the logic of the Toba Batak anology of woven textiles and 'textiles which do not wear out' viz women. (Niessen 1985)
See Sandra Niessen's website and her blog.
"Batak Sculpture" by Achim Sibeth and Bruce W. Carpenter Bruce W. Carpenter published by Editions Didier Millet in 2007 ISBN 978-981-4155-85-4. Contains hundreds of previously unpublished masterpiesces of Batak sculpture. The book views Batak art as a dynamic form intertwined with the social, political, historical, cultural and religious life of the Batak.  
"The Batak: Peoples of the Island of Sumatra" by Achim Sibeth published by Thames and Hudson in 1991. ISBN 0-500-97392-X. A record of the Batak cultural achievement - over 650 items illustrated: wood carvings, bronze objects, jewelry, textiles and weapons drawn from ethnographic museums and various private collections in Euruope. There is a section on textiles on pages192-209. (Sibeth 1991)
"Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Tradition in Indonesia" by Mattiebelle Gittinger published by Oxford University Press in 1990 ISBN 0-19-588956-8. First published in 1979 by The Textile Museum, Washington. One of the classic references on Indonesian textiles. (Batak references: pages 95, 98, 99, 100 and 101.) (Gittinger 1979)
"Selected Batak Textiles: Techniques and Function" and "Additional Batak Cloths that Frequently enter into the Gift Exchange" by Mattiebelle Gittinger published in The Textile Museum Journal Vol IV number 2 in 1975. Much quoted articles on Batak weaving techniques including that of the extended warp of the Ragidup.
"Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation" by Robyn Maxwell published by Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd in 2003. ISBN 0-7946-0104-9. Originally published by Oxford University Press, Australian National Gallery in 1990 and reprinted in 1994 ISBN 967-65-3060 3. Major reference work on the textiles of Southeast Asia. Central focus is the interplay between indigenous Southeast Asian traditions and the external cultural forces that have had a crucial part of the historical development and changing nature of the region's textile traditions. Needs careful (but rewarding) study as textiles from particular groups or areas appear throughout the volume illustrating different themes.This is a reprinted edition with new colour plates, a corrected text, and a new foreword by Mattiebelle Gittinger. There is no doubt that the switch to colour of the majority of the plates makes a huge difference to this excellent major reference work. (Batak references: pages 40, 41, 70-72, 119, 121, 365, 366.) (Maxwell 1990)
"Handwoven Textiles of South-east Asia" by Sylvia Fraser-Lu published by Oxford University Press 1988. ISBN 0-19-588954-1. Covers Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Indonesia and with some excellent pages on weaving in Burma. (Batak references: pages 5, 28-31, 42, 50-52, 57, 58, 74, 77, 178-80.) (Fraser-Lu 1988)
"Traditional Indonesian Textiles" by John Gillow, photographs by Barry Dawson published by Thames and Hudson in 1995 (first edition 1992). ISBN 0-500-27820-2. A comprehensive history of textile production in the Indonesian archipelago and a complete guide to the islands and their products - from Balinese double ikats and Javanese silks to the gold-thread brocades of Sumatra. (Batak references: pages 10, 15-16, 73, 74, 75, 110, 111, 115, 119, 137.) (Gillow 1995)
"Indonesian Textiles" by Michael Hitchcock published by the British Museum Press in association with The Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hul in 1991 ISBN l 0-7141-1598-3 The author focuses on Inonesia's textiles decorated with batik and ikat as well as supplementary weft, embroidery, couching, applique and gilding. He also shows how the skills of the weavers and dyers are acquired and developed. 100 colour, 50 black & white illustrations. (Batak references: pages 43, 74, 78-79, 102, 105, 110-111, 112, 114, 126, 127, 133, 137, 139, 143, 155.) (Hitchcock 1991)

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this page last updated 2 April, 2011