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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

Tianur br.Hutabarat

Name : Sadum (B)
Age : About 80 years
Dimension : 68 x 200 cm
Condition : Excellent weaving, motif, and complete beads.
Story : My grandmother (Mrs. Tianur br.Hutabarat, born in 1923) weaved this Sadum herself, when she was a young girl lived in Huta Sisunggulon, a village in Tarutung, North Tapanuli, North Sumatra

Our family names : Tobing , Hutagalung, Hutabarat, Tarihoran (my mother's grand pa, my mother's grand ma, my grand ma, my father), are all from Tarutung area. Those names are the kampung (village) names, too. The Tarutung's people doesn't like it to be called Batak Toba (group). They prefer Tapanuli ( which is the name of the hill area where the villages around Tarutung are. And they are North Tapanuli's people. (South Tapanuli is called Batak Mandailing). And Batak Toba's people is form villages around Toba Lake, Samosir, and Balige. It takes about 2 hours from Parapat / Lake Toba to Tarutung.

In Tarutung my grand ma and my mother's grand ma waved the ulos.

Yes, my grandmother was Mrs. Tianur br.Tabarat ( note: Hutagalung or Hutabarat or other Hutas, are used to called Tagalung or Tabarat after br. / boru for batak's female ).

On Sadum B, ( by Mrs.Tianur br Tabarat ), the words are :
-Damema Dihita Saluhutna ( May Peace be with All of Us )
-Sahatma Tuhita Parulianni ( May The Wonderful/Good things/Bless be upon us )
-Aut Unang Ho Djambarhu Ale Jesus Ende 198 (If You are not my part [part of destiny? like soul mates? sorry, I can not translate it better] oh Jesus, Song Title 198).
-Jahowa Si Pormahan Au Ende 188 ( God is my Shepard, Song Title 188 ).

I remember why Mr.Ernestina joined us in Medan on 1975. My mother and my father had been lived separately since 1970 and my mother divorced him on 1975. My grandmother could not approve the divorce what ever the reason. She said it would humiliate our family because it has been never before a divorce happened formally in batak family and ( my grandmother was catholic ), even more if a wife divorces husband. And she was right! All the people around us suddenly knew my family because one of the vocal local news paper released news about us for years. In 1980 my mother married my step father who was Moslem. Again, my grandmother was very very upset. So, in the hardest years of her life, my mother only be supported by her grandmother. Although a few years before my grandmother died my mother and her mother became better in their relationship, I could see that they had never been so closed as my mother and her grandmother was.

Mrs. Ernestina and her husband had been spoiled my mother even more than her youngest daughter, since my mother was born until teenager. Since early her high school, when she had to stay with my grandmother in Medan, she became sick frequently ( then we knew the reason was because my grandmother was a little 'mean' to her ). Her first big mistake was being a runawaybride just to be aparted from her mother. She was 18 yr old.

Sadum B uses imported colour threads and my grandmother did not dye them.

-2 Ragidup. Very good condition. One was Mrs Tianur's collection, she recieved when 7th month of her first pregnancy ( she was carrying my mother ) as "ulos tondi". Ages about 63. Base colour: very dark maroon. Size: 90 cm x 210 cm.
The other one was Mrs Ernestina's collection,she received it from Mrs Tianur's parents in my grandmother's wedding on October 27th 1942 as "ulos pansamot". From its condition I think its age more than the first one. Base colour: bright maroon. Its long line's motif is simpler than the first one, and has indigo coloured lines. Size: 105 cm x 210 cm.

*There are Ragidup from Tarutung-Hutagalung-Harean and Simarangkir and from Toba-Porsea.

-2 Sibolang. One was Mrs Ernestina's collection. Age about 75's. Very good condition. Simpler and thinner than the other one. Base colour: black with simple indigo lines. Size: almost 90 cm x almost 240 cm.
The other one was collection of Mrs Tianur. Good condition but has a tear. Age about 50's. Colour: major indigo with black along both sides. Size: 100 cm x 240 cm.

*Sibolang is from Toba-Porsea.

-Small old Sadum. Wove by Mrs Tianur when she was a teenager. Good condition. Age about 70's. Base colour: Maroon+lilac, almost dark magenta. Thin and small Sadum. Size: almost 60 cm x 150 cm.

-Selendang with Sadum's motif. Wove by Mrs Tianur. Very good condition.The appearance like songket but it is thinner and simpler. Colour: bright lilac. Size: 40 cm x 160 cm.

Sadum from Hutabarat means Hutabarat women found the style first, and as you said too, the next village's girls might had been imitated or modified like Mrs Ernestina had.
Nowadays Sadum becomes ulos for every kind of ceremony for general batak people. And some of these Sadums are -hand - made in Tarutung-Hutabarat area and some are - semi machine - made in P. Siantar. This weaving device called : Alat Tenun Bukan Mesin ( ATBM = Manual Weaving Device; more complicated and faster device operated not by weaver. Other ulos are seemed to be used for special ceremony or by special relationship, e.g.. from the elder to the younger.

Tarutung has many villages around it. Each village belongs to - or found by - a family and called this village as family's name: marga ( surname ) such as Hutabarat village, etc., but marga Hutabarat has some groups too and their villages are : Sisunggulon ( my grandmother's ), Parbaju, and Partali. Hutagalung has: Harean ( Mrs Ernestina's ), Ina-ina, Napitupulu. The location of these villages are not too far from the town Tarutung.

The ulos tondi is given to give the embryo something that would be able to protect it like a blanket.

Yes, the ulos pansamot is gift given by the bride-giver to the bride-taker.

The ulos, if said it is from Porsea or Tarutung, means it is originally made by people from Porsea or Tarutung and until now they make their own ulos. But in ceremonies, it's no problem if those ulos - which given or taken - from other village of the people who involved in the ceremony.


Ragidup1: Ulos pansamot, from Mrs Tianur parents given to Mrs Ernestina and Husband.

Ragidup2: Ulos tondi, from Mrs Tianur's parents given to her in her's 7th month of pregnancy.

Ulos:Part3 Sibolang&Sadum

Sibolang1: Mrs Ernestina's
Sibolang2: Mrs Tianur's
Both sibolang has some stink.

Sadum: Woven by Mrs Tianur. Broken beads just in one side end.
Selendang Sadum: Woven by Mrs Tianur

Mrs Ernestina's family1: on wedding day of Mrs Tianur's second son.

The photo was taken when family were ready to go to bride's house. They were on front terrace of Mrs Tianur's house.
Mrs Ernestina was on left behind the green flower, next right to her Mrs Tianur, Mrs Tianur's husband, Mrs Tianur's son - the groom-, my mother, my mother's sister in law, and my youngest sister.

Mrs Ernestina's family2: when all family were taking breakfast in Mrs Tianur's house before went to bride's house


Mrs Tianur was born in Tarutung, May 27th 1925, got married and got the ulos pansamot in October 27th, 1942, and died in Medan, April 15th, 1994.

The wedding in family photograph was in August 14th 1981

My mother decided to sell the 'new' ulos because she has no good place to keep them well. All the 'new' ulos are given to her from Mrs Ernestina ( her collections : Sibolang1, Ragihotang1 ), from Mrs Tianur ( her collections : 2 Ragidup Tarutung, Sibolang2, her weaving : Selendang Sadum ), and from Mrs Helena ( Mrs Ernestina's collection : 2 Ragihotang, Mrs Tianur's weaving : Sadum ).

from Mrs Tianur (her collections):

2 Ragidup Tarutung


from Mrs Tianur (her weaving):

Selendang Sadum),

and from Mrs Helena, Mrs Tianur's weaving:


About the difference of Ragidup Tarutung and Toba / Porsea, is in their pinarhalak. In Toba version it can be fulfilled with various motif. Later, from photo Ragidup Toba -Vera Tobing collection- you can see its pinarhalak more clear -or vocal ?- but if compared to Tarutung version you can see Tarutungs is finer.

The symbol of male or female is just same in Tarutung or Toba version. The photos of agidup1&2 I have sent, both are Ragidup Tarutung. But Ragidup2 has ikat line motif - the center band- like Toba version.

I'm sorry we don't know the age of Selendang Sadum woven by Mrs Tianur. But I remember her sister told me that Mrs Tianur didn't do weave after she got married.

Or, Mrs Tianur's sister: 'What? Our family history is important to an ulos? I did weaving just for living week by week...'

About the old photos, ( I think - in about 1953, if my mother was 10 ) Mrs Ernestina looked not much younger than she was in 1981 photos, and she was prettier when she was older ya. Family's photos were taken in Siantar ( I remember the rotan chairs ).
(From left to right)

-Mrs Ernestina'sFamily1: Mr Dari Walter, Mr Theodorik, Mrs Vera, Mrs Ernestina, Mrs Oloan.

-Mrs Ernestina'sFamily2: Front: Mrs Vera, Mrs Tianur with Mr Parulian on her lap, Mr Simon, Mrs Ernestina with Mrs Ariatna on her lap, Mr Theodorik, Mrs Lina - Mrs Ariatna's eldest sister -, Mrs Barita with Mr Hotasi on her lap - Mrs Ariatna's eldest brother -, Mrs Oloan.

Behind: Unknown, Mr tahi sumurung, Mr Manulang - Mrs Ariatna's father -, Mr Dari Walter.

-Mrs Ernestina'sFamily3: Mrs Vera carried Mr Parulian, Mrs Ernestina with Mr Hotasi on her lap, Mr Simon, Mr Theodorik with Mrs Ariatna in his lap, Mrs Lina.

Mrs Tianur's story, from Mrs Lirou br. Hutabarat, her third sister.
Mrs Tianur's parents are Mr Josep Hutabarat and br Tobing. Mr Josep came from a background of great wealth in Hutabarat-Sisunggulon-Doloknagodang. Mrs Tianur was a rich girl, so she didn't have to earn money by weaving. She did it because she wanted to and Mrs Lirou said she was good in almost anything she did.

From Mrs br. Tobing, Mrs Tianur had 2 sisters ( Mrs Tianggur - has died - , Mrs Derima ) and one brother ( Mr Kasman ). Mrs br Tobing died when they were small. Meanwhile, Mr Josep had been spent all the wealth and bankrupt. Then he married br. Hutasoit. From Mrs br. Hutasoit he had 5 children; 3 sons ( Tolopan - has died - , Manto, Tonggo Budiman) and 2 daughters ( Lirou, born in 1951, and Meijiano ). Mr Josep died in 1972.
Mrs Derima, Mr Manto, Mr Tonggo live in Tarutung, Mr Kasman and Mrs Lirou in Jakarta.

Mrs Tianur married Mr Tahi Sumurung on 1941 and they have two daughters ( Vera / Veronica Pintauli, Imelda ) and four sons ( Simon Hamonangan, Parulian, Frans, Pardamean ). My uncle Parulian and Pardamean have died. Mr Simon and Mrs Imelda live in Jakarta, and Mrs Vera and Mr Frans live in Medan.

Mrs Lirou ( born in 1951 ) said she did weaving much more because she had had to live her family since she was 10ys old girl. She was expert in Sadum weaving and only wove Sadum. But she has no her own Sadum because all of them always been sold. She never used traditional threads, and if she got order from a rich one she was given the DMC threads. She frequently made different motif because she wanted her Sadum more special than other's, so that the price could be higher. She had woven until 1975. She stopped since she run her own restaurant. She made a critic on today Batak sarong or usually called Songket batak, which take much sadum motif with bright or gold colours but are not woven properly or finely ( sorry for my limited vocabulary ).

About the old photos, ( I think - in about 1953, if my mother was 10 ) Mrs Ernestina looked not much younger than she was in 1981 photos, and she was prettier when she was older ya. Family's photos were taken in Siantar ( I remember the rotan chairs ).

-Mrs Ernestina'sFamily2:

Front: Mrs Vera, Mrs Tianur with Mr Parulian on her lap, Mr Simon, Mrs Ernestina with Mrs Ariatna on her lap, Mr Theodorik, Mrs Lina - Mrs Ariatna's eldest sister -, Mrs Barita with Mr Hotasi on her lap - Mrs Ariatna's eldest brother -, Mrs Oloan.
Behind: Unknown, Mr tahi sumurung, Mr Manulang - Mrs Ariatna's father -, Mr Dari Walter.

I have re-measured the ulos. Now the fringes are included.

Sibolang2: 280 cm x 104 cm

Ragidup1 / Pansamot: 228 cm x 108 cm
Ragidup2 / Tondi: 244 cm x 92 cm

(Small) Sadum: 188 cm x 57 cm
Selendang Sadum: 189 cm x 45 cm

- Mrs Tianur was born in 1925 not 1923.

Sorry, in my last email I wrote Mrs Tianur married in 1941, it should be 1942.

Family trees! What a thing I have been dreaming of!
Please make correction to the names of Mrs Tianur's children:
1. Veronica P br. Tobing
2. Simon H L. Tobing
3. Petrus SP L. Tobing (I wrote just Parulian)
4. Fransiskus AT L.Tobing (I wrote Frans)
5. Edward P L. Tobing (I wrote Pardamean)
6. Elisabeth I br. Tobing (I wrote Imelda)

About Ragihotang of Mrs Ernestina's, my mother doesn't know if it was given by Mrs Ernestina's father. And her Sibolang, my mother is sure it was given by Mrs Ernestina's hula-hula ( her family of Hutagalung ) and not as ulos tujung ( from her mother, at the time of bereavement worn on the her head during the mourning period ).
Maybe it is also story about Mrs Tianur's Sibolang. ( Mrs Tianur died in Medan, April 15th, 1994 and Mr Tahi Sumurung died in January 13th, 1995).

Mrs Tianur's mother was br. Tobing and step mother br. Hutasoit.

Ariatna br.Manuling, Lina br.Manuling Barita br.Tobing and Mr Manulang Hotasi L.Manuling, should be Manullang. I am sorry if I was used to write manulang not manullang.
-From VTfamily page too, Mr Manulang husband of Ernestina and Theodorik's eldest daughter, Barita); should be manullang + ( mark

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.

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.

About quality of Sibolang, my mother said she taught to appreciate the value from its fine thread weaving technique and performance (or appearance/look?) of its sirat. When I saw them that way, I can see that Mrs Ernestina's ikat finer but the sirat have same quality (the sirat colour of Mrs Ernestina's is brighter but Mrs Tianur more artistic to me). Another Sibolang of Mrs Ariatna's (from Mrs barita), is like Mrs Ernestina's but in decreasing colour of its ikat and sirat. My mother didn's know if Mrs Tianur received her Sibolang from her father.
Her ulos tondi was from her parents. Mrs T was the first child from mother br.Tobing. Her illness after gave birth might be a kind of baby blues syndrome. But from Mr Lirou I heard that Mrs T had been disappointed with her husband, who was unable to cheer her. I think Mrs T had a great expectation of her husband who as long as I know just a calm, quite, and simple man. Mr Tahi was not involving his self in any organization or adats and had no bright career. They found each other by match-maker help, Mrs T's uncle the shoes trader.
Mrs Lirou had a a run-away marriage = mangalua (1972), not because of her parent or her become parents in-law didn't approve but because of 'the condition' she said, which couldn't make adat wedding possible to be ran. They made the adat after she have children, but her father had died (1970) .

At the Tropenmuseum, we have a whole set of textiles from Hutabarat that were sent in by Raja Renatus to the Jaarmarkten in Surabaya (1909) when J.E. Jasper organized them to stimulate local handicraft in the archipelago. Beyond this "village heritage", I am not aware of "family heritages". Once again, the maker of the textile fades into anonymity. Such was the nature of collecting in the past.

Mrs Tianur's children:
1. Veronica P br. Tobing married LMA Tarihoran but is divorced since 1975. In batak divorced declaration is important since after divorced there are no relationship between two margas even the children forever be involved in their marga.
2. Simon H L. Tobing married FS br. Hutabarat
3. Petrus SP L. Tobing married L br. Batubara
4. Fransiskus AT L.Tobing married K br. Situmorang
5. Edward P L. Tobing (died before got married)
6. Elisabeth I br. Tobing married R Simanungkalit

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.

On Sadum B, ( by Mrs.Tianur br Tabarat ), the words are :

-Damema Dihita Saluhutna ( May Peace be with All of Us )
Dame = peace
ma = expresses "may it be so"
di hita = to us
saluhut = all
na = possessive, our all

Thus: may there be peace for all of us, or exactly as Maria has it. Or may we all have peace. Peace to us all.

-Sahatma Tuhita Parulianni (May The Wonderful/Good things/Bless be upon us)
Sahat = arrive
tu = to
hita = us
uli = beautiful, good; parulian = place of beautiful
ni = na i = na is possessive, and i refers to location, i.e. "there"

i.e. May good and beautiful things befall us all

-Aut Unang Ho Djambarhu Ale Jesus Ende 198 ( If You are not my part [part of destiny? like soul mates? sorry, I can not translate it better] oh Jesus, Song Title 198 ).

Aut = I don't know, sorry.
Saut = to take place, to be realized, but aut??? If?
Unang = don't
ho = you
Jambarhu (new spelling) = my share. Jambar is especially used when an animal is slaughtered. Each person receives a share (jambar) depending on their relative status.
hu tacked on means my share.
Ale Jesus = Oh, Jesus.
Ende = song
198 - number of the psalm???
I think that Maria's translation is pretty good. If you were not part of me, o Jesus...

-Jahowa Si Pormahan Au Ende 188 ( God is my Shepard, Song Title 188 ).

Jahowa = god (The lord)
Si Pormahan = Shepherd
au = ahu = My
The "is" may be assumed here. The Lord is My Shepherd.
Ende 188 = song 188 (Psalm?)

I don't know if the songs are from the hymn book or from psalms. Their hymn book probably doesn't correspond to ours -- maybe to the German one. I wonder is parulianna would be grace?

These are definitely worn to go to Church. Somewhere (also in the exhibition) I mention that the change in ulos began with the missionaries who condemned the worship of ancestor spirits and fear of ghosts. The twined edgings in the cloth could be interpreted as "heathen". That's when Latin characters pertaining to Christian worship began to be twined/woven into the textiles.

And about Raja Renatus, from Mr Kasman I knew that Hutabarat clans are: first, Sisunggulon, second Hapoltakan, third Parbaju, fourth Partali. We are Parbaju (sorry if I've made mistake saying we are Sisunggulon..., by the way Sandra's Hutabarat is from Parbaju isn't it?), and Raja Renatus was Partali. We have no blood relation with him.

Mrs Tianur's kampung is Dolok Nagodang Sisunggulon Hutabarat.

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
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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.
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this page last updated 7 November, 2006