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Karo Batak - Architecture

(I visited some of the Karo Batak area on the Karo Plateau in North Sumatra in March 1997 and saw most of the traditional style Karo houses still standing. Below are some extracts from my notes of the trip which relate to traditional Karo architecture.)

all text & images © Pamela A Cross

"Sunday 9 March 1997

...... Eventually, before going into Brastagi for lunch we went to the Karo Batak village of Lingga.  I was shown around by a very nice Karo man (Ginting) who had been to Medan University and studied architecture.  He had come back to the village and was working on restoring and maintaining the traditional Karo Batak houses.  His grandfather had also been an architect.  The lizard decoration on the wooden board on the houses is actually string tying the boards togther.  The ‘legs’ of the houses sit on stone.  Between the wood and stone is palm felt which acts as a shock absorber for earthquakes – of which they get many including one the previous week which had meaured 6 on the Richter scale.  No nails were used in building the houses.  The five colours of painted designs on the houses represent the five sub-tribes of the Karo Batak.  The Karo cannot marry within the same group.  (Ginting was blue.) There is a separate house where young men have to sleep after they are 17 years old and must leave the main house.

After lunch we set off down a long but interesting lane through Karo Batak farm land with hedges of hibiscus.  There were old women walking along with uis gara (a term similar to the Toba Batak ulos) wrapped around their heads and wearing sarongs.  The weaving for the uis gara is a wine/maroon with ikat.  We eventually arrived at Barusjahe.  There were several old houses although most were in poor repair and not inhabited. ... I saw a rice store and, next to it, a store for the bones of the first Barusjahe family ancestors.  It was a very pleasant visit and interesting."  

"Monday, 10 March 1997

.....In the late morning we went to a village almost in Brastagi with some old houses.  We went into one of them.  It seemed quite cool....."

Lingga

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Barusjahe

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Brastagi

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this page last updated 19 January, 2014