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Vera Tobing collection

(A study of a group of Toba Batak textiles most of which were inherited from two Batak women who were born in the last decade of the 19th Century and second decade of the 20th Century in villages around Tarutung, North Tapanuli, in North Sumatra (also known as the Silindung Valley)) - compiled by Pamela A Cross and Maria DRT Ambesa

these images are and may not be reproduced without the express permission of Pamela A Cross and Vera Tobing

click on main photo enlargement to go to Vera Tobing collection photogallery - click on any thumbnails to go to further photo enlargements

Maria DRT Ambesa

I want to tell you more about my self, and I would love to know you better too.
I am an architect, almost 40, and married ( since 2000 ), still have no child.
I do urban, architecture, or product design and for a few years -until 2002- teaching in class or studio in university in Medan and Jakarta.

Since 1995 I helped my mother in marketing of her business : making use of ulos as fashion and/or interior accessories. But I have given up since 1997 because of -maybe- I could not market them as well as my mother ( I was in Bandung taking my magister program, and my mother was unable to make frequent trip from Medan to Tarutung ) and then the business was closed since monetary crisis on 1998.

MariaDRT Ambesa and Ebenhaezar Ambesa on their wedding day

my sister's ( Bintang Irene ) wedding party on January 21st, 2006. And so was the photo of me and my mother ( yes, we're getting fatter lately; by the way, my mother is 63 years old now ), and in this usual wedding party - not traditional batak's wedding party - my mother took time to give ulos ( mangulosi, means to bless ).
Next, I will send you better photos because my sister keeps them and she is in Papua now.
Maria and her mother, Vera 21 Jan 2006

Inside the parcel, I also put 'a few things to be remembered' from my mother's business. I give them as gift for you. They are :

- A small poster of Batak's wood craft.
My mother hired a craftman from Silalahi, a village near Tomok - Lake Toba. His job was creating or remaking of batak's wood craft. The photo shows King's accessories for medicine, coins, and water.
I made this poster as background of our ulos and craft collection that exhibited in a few hotels or gallery in Bandung ( 1996 - 1997 ).
I am sorry about the condition is not so good anymore.

- 3 photos of Ulu Puca and Pinarhalak motif that was re-disigned by my mother. I made the photos for interior accessories ( framed, put on wall ).

- Sets of postcards.
I printed them also in Bandung and put them in hotels, gallery, and my campus.

It was 1973 when my mother met my step father. He was a widow. My mother ran an architecture consultant business which she learned when my father still ran his family business. My step father 's family name was Hasibuan ( South Tapanuli, mostly Moslem ). He was an architect and work for government in public works department. Now you can figure out their first met situation. And guess why am I become an architect? :-D

and mine is Pantekosta because I follow my husband's.

My father in law ( fam. Ambesa ) was Nusa Tenggara Barat ( Timor ) people, and my mother in law was br. Silalahi. My husband's grandfather was Silalahi ( who ran Christian mission too in Timor and stayed in Rote Island ) but his grandmother was Timor.

After read about Sadum Angkola by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, "With the current penchant for brighter colours amongst the Batak, the sadum is being imitated by other groups. Influenced by their coastal neighbours, supplementary metallic threads have also crept into some Batak weaving." and share with my mother, she reminded me that she has given me one in my wedding. We used to called ulos godang as Sadum Angkola. I feel it is such a glamour ulos by its colours, beads, and metallic-glittering threads. And if you see the 'selendang sadum photo' of Mrs Tianur's, I feel it such a simple Palembang songket ( Tarutung people claimed that they have Songket Tarutung -unfortunately my mother doesn't have one- but Batak women prefer to wear songket Palembang for their sarong because of trends and they think it is more beautiful ).

You have no idea what would the expressions of my family members when they knew that the history might be so precious...( I remember when Mrs Oloan said: 'Oh, how stupid I am and most of us! I don't even remember when my mother got married or moved to Siantar!' Or, Mrs Tianur's sister: 'What? Our family history is important to an ulos? I did weaving just for living week by week...' And the sad one, Mrs Ariatna: 'My mother didn't tell us about ulos, so when her wardrobe were full, I had to get rid of many of the old ulos because they were torn, I didn't know that they have to be sun-dried sometimes...'

Since I was a little girl I was being known as a listener of the elder's story. I was able to listen and ask about many things for a long time/hours. Unfortunately, my memory is not good enough to save the stories. But the good side is I love to tell my nephews many stories :-) And now, I think I'm back, even my question might not be all answered.

Your writing in VTc's intro flattered me...and a little surprise for me to know that my mother was touched greatly when she look at the hard copy of VTc pages (my brother printed them for her in Medan today). Then, she -again- asked me, 'Why does Pamela do this to our family?'... for a moment I tried to figure out what that question's supposed to mean...then she continued, 'What a very kind person she is! Please tell her my million thanks.' Pamela, I hope it is not to heavy for you in upholding this family project.

I have asked my mother her ages in EF photos. She said maybe she was 13 or 14 yr old in EF1.
In EF2, 10 yr old. She didn't remember what the occasion was, but she remember the hobby of Mr Manullang -Mrs Ernestina's son in law- was in photography.

After read your 1953 photo, I remember my family photo when I was 10yr old. Only my mother and her children (six of us). We made this photo in local photo studio. I saved that only -complete 'old'- family photo when I collected all our photos in my house after back from Bandung. (When I still in Bandung, I met my father -in Jakarta, 1995- after 20 years separated. I got one of his old photo -alone- and that is the only photo we have. My mother smiled when I saw her).
I can imagine that my mother would cry when she look EFs photos.

And if it is necessary, my brothers and sisters:
1. Sondang E br. Tarihoran
2. Anthony MH Tarihoran
3. Edyson S Tarihoran
4. Maria DR br.Tarihoran
5. Rudy SP Tarihoran
6. Bintang I br.Tarihoran

I am sorry for my fault; would you please make correction of my name? Yes I'm used to write Maria DRTAmbesa, but the right is Maria DRT Ambesa. So sorry to give you more trouble.
*If we want to give credit to photographers of all ulos, they want to be written as Mari Pro Foto Studio (the name of local photo studio I use)
*My English is excellent? I am a little ashamed of my English! I just have been learning by understanding song lyrics or -easy to understand- novels, correspondences, text-books,etc., never attended a course. So, no wonder if my grammar and vocabulary is not good.

Pamela, I told a friend about our 'partnership' in VTc web pages, and he asked if you want to write a book of ulos some day. This remind me that I never ask you about it because I have read in tribaltextille's author page you said..The initial aim of the website was to bring together and build up over time Pamela's tribal textile research, photographs and textile collection and to share the results with other enthusiasts.

I think there is no 'normal' family, if we see it in overall family. In Batak's, even they respect the 'dalihan na tolu' (three stones such a structure system to uphold life) which an effort -I think, well I just know little 'bout this- of hold each dimension of hula-hula = woman behalf, boru = man behalf, and dongan tubu = relatives; there has been always things of politicking from each side to other's. If we understand well the philosophy of dalihan na tolu, we would have a great expectation that a perfect family would be there. (sorry if my language or words is confusing, and the last sentences was said by someone who understand this very well).

Maybe I should tell you my family case. This is just between us, ya.
My first uncle, Simon, is the first son of the first son. Mr Tianur saw this as the most important positon/role in adat, on Tobing behalf. This is just right. Mrs Tianur was called Simon's mother, not Vera's mother. But my mother, as the eldest, has right to be the called (to be named) of her grandparents call. Mrs Ernestina was called Pitta (Pintauli)'s grandmother. This is right for Tarutung's adat, but not for Toba's. According to Toba, Mrs Ernestina would be called Simon's grandmother.

You can guess, this position or right have been influenced the relationship between Simon and Vera. My mother's side are her grandparents and her father, and then Mrs Tianur's brother = Simon's tulang/uncle (because defended my mother, Mrs Tianur was mad at him). The distance between S and V was declared by Mrs Tianur in the name of adat. I heard Mr Tianur protest Mrs Ernestina about her land heritage (or what would you say, legacy?) which my mother's bigger than Simon's. Mrs Ernestina answered, jus as simple as, 'well, she is my eldest grandchild!' Maybe Mrs Tianur just wanted to be an adat holder, but this principle has made a distance for S and V.

Tulang/uncle, has an important role as it is hula-hula. Simon is my uncle. I was lucky, when I was in time of preparing my wedding, I throwed a way all the 'distance' and come to him, asked his bless and permission, and he was so nice to me and he became nice to my mother too, and my wedding ceremony was going well. But then, their parents heritage suddenly appeared when my uncle Frans said there was a man wanted to buy Mrs Tianur's house. And the weakness of boru's side was declared by Simon's mother in-law. Then the unlucky one was my sister. She got no bless from her tulang and tulang didn't come in her wedding. But my mother ask me to write his name in invitation, and running the mangulosi processing eventhough there was no adat ceremony.

I believe, just love and understanding could make a perfect -difficult- relationship. I respect the dalihan na tolu, but it is just a way. Now, Pamela, I am a little out of cultural matters you've been talking/disscusing about. Frankly, I'm not good in batak philosophy. When I went to Mrs Ariatna's house, her husband gave me a book about batak philosophy. In batak language. Shamed on me, I read it very slowly because we don't speak batak daily, I have been just a listener. If you ask me to speak Batak, it would be as slow as I speak English:-).

Tobing of Mrs Tianur's mother a distant to Mr Theodorik's. Tobing has groups: Ompu Sumurung (we are), Parbubu, and ... sorry I forget. I'll ask my mother. Pamela, my uncle Simon, now is the Head of Tobing. He makes her mother proud.

The Mari Pro Foto Studio is in Depok Jawa Barat, about ten kilos from my house.

I will send you the better quality of mangulosi photos from my sister wedding and mine too.

I agree with you, we can read things from ulos. Our talks has made me know my family better Pamela. Thanks to you.

Long live our 'partnership'!

Batak woman's name after married is changed to be her husband's name followed by her marga. If my husband were batak, then my name is Maria DR Ambesa br. Tarihoran. My mother was Mrs Vera Tarihoran (said: Mrs Tarihoran) br. Tobing. And I think this common to Indonesian (or most nations) too. For Javanese who has no marga but their father's name, the wife is called by her husband name, such as Ibu or Nyonya Bambang, if her husband was Bambang.
Back to me, I don't write the br. Tarihoran because I am now in Ambesa family.
But in adat batak ceremony I still have role in Tarihoran boru.

My brothers and sisters:
1. Sondang E br. Tarihoran married BM Hasibuan (south Tapanuli)
2. Anthony MH Tarihoran married R br. Damanik (Simalungun)
3. Edyson S Tarihoran (died before got married)
4. Maria DR br.Tarihoran married EHGA Ambesa (Flores/Rote south east Timor)
5. Rudy SP Tarihoran
6. Bintang I br.Tarihoran married R Prahasta (father east Java, mother s.e Timor)

Here is a fax of the margas (lineages) in the Silindung Valley. The organization shown here occurred about 15 generations prior to the birth of Maria...She will know how many generations she is from the apical ancestor.The English text is Vergouwen, and the Indonesian text is N. Siahaan. Sorry they are crooked. Tobing is Lumbantobing. Lumban translates as "group of villages".

thank you for sending me the margas (lineages) in the Silindung Valley. Now I become more realised that I know nothing about my ancestor :-(

I asked Mrs Oloan, what's her Tobing number? She said, 16th. So, I am the 18th.

It was interesting when I found that he did weaving in his shop in Jakarta too and 90% his customers are batak woman! His stand promotion girl said that the customers often make order for the songket they preferred. Some like padang motif, but woven in palembang way/style, or they create 'songket batak' and they call it 'songket tarutung', which I told you like the 'not fine weaving' according to Mrs Lirou. But songket tarutung of Zainal is better and interested. They take flower motif (or pusuk robung Sandra said?) from Sadum into the songket, the badan sometimes with ikat and sometimes all fulfilled with gold threads.

I remember my songket palembang I wore in my wedding. That songket was given by my mother's, she bought it in 1980s. She said it is 'cabutan / pull-out threads' means the good-old-original threads were pulled out from the cloth because the remains of them has been broken. The good threads were used again (because they were the high quality threads from gold-silk-threads) with the new similar threads. The girl said these days they sometimes do this kind of cabutan weaving. This cabutan costs about IDR 40 or 50 million (more or less U$ 5000). So, I'm a rich woman, aren't I? :-)

Beside the songket stand there was a 'selendang not-good songket tarutung' stand. The stand guide couldn't inform me much about their weave, even though she's got the weaving device in her stand! The cloth were different from normal ulos, she said it is toba ulos, just like a thin cloth in selendang size and using sadum motif. But I was quite interested when I was given the business card and read it : Group of ulos batak weavers from Lumban Suhi-suhi Toruan Village, Pangururan, Samosir. And they have a representative (as business contact) in Jakarta.

My -and Eben's and Rudy's- family wouldn't mind you use the mangulosi photos.

In my mangulosi photos:
-by Kasman; He is Mr Tianur's brother. The ulos is Tarutung sadum. A new one.
-by Simon; Sadum Angkola. New.
-My Songket...:-) yes the 'expensive' songket cabutan/pull out thread.

I am Maria DRT Ambesa, the friend of Pamela. I know she told you about me and my family.
I am boru Tarihoran (Bor-bor clan, the head is Pasaribu) from Silindung.

Mr Philip Tobing -you mentioned- was he the former North Sumatra Governor? If yes, then he is a descendant of the father's brother of my mother's grandfather.

Then Mr Paul Hutagalung, was he the former of Indonesia ambassador -economic division- in Amsterdam? If yes, he is amang na poso of my mother (from her grandmother Mrs Ernestina br Hutagalung) and he was the host when my mother attended an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1980s.

Paul Hutagalung: his father is from Hutagalung Harean. His mother is Dutch. He is a young fellow with young children, lives here in Holland, likes to dance, and is a member of a dance group; works at the Post Office.

And Paul Hutagalung..., I (Maria) will mail him and ask if he knows our family since he is from Harean

Mr Kasman is the youngest child from Mrs Tianur's mother; br. Tobing, the first wife of their father. I must ask him or Mrs Lirou about Raja Renatus.

ulos in the Vera Tobing collection photographed by Mari Pro Foto Studio, Jawa Barat Depok
click on main photo enlargement to go to Vera Tobing collection photogallery - click on any thumbnails to go to further photo enlargements
go to Indonesia country page - go to Indonesia photogalleries and articles
Maria DRT Ambesa is the daughter of Vera Tobing and an architect now living with her husband in Java. She has been the essential intermediary allowing these fine textiles and their story to be shared. She arranged for the family ulos to be photographed and has worked tirelessly, together with her mother, to track down information about the ulos, their weavers and to extract memories and photos of the past from a family who have been amazed that there should be any interest in their history or value placed on it as background to the textiles. Maria's patience, persistence and endless cheerful support plus her excellent English, have made the 'Vera Tobing collection' not only possible but a thoroughly enjoyable study to develop.

Both Pamela and Maria are very grateful indeed for the encouragement and advice which they have received from Sandra Niessen, a leading expert on the Batak and their textiles. See an autobiography and Batak references for more information about Sandra and her publications.

Copyright © 2012 Pamela A Cross. The contents of this site, including all images and text, are for personal, educational, non-commercial use only and may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Pamela A Cross.
If you have any comments on the tribaltextiles.info website please send them to us. If you have any general tribal textile comments or questions go to the tribaltextiles.info/community forum to share your thoughts and questions with an international community of enthusiasts.

this page last updated 20 April, 2006