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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

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jpeg 118K Mangiring A by Ernestina br.Hutagalung around 1906-07

This very fine ulos is a ragi hotang (or huting) namarsimata was woven by Ernestina br.Hutagalung at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century before her marriage when she was living in the Silindung valley in the village of Huta Harean, one of the villages of the marga (clan) Hutagalung near Tarutung, North Tapanuli, North Sumatra. She would have been around 14-18 years of age in a period of her life before marriage known by the Batak as namarbaju. The ulos measures 232 x 76 cm, including fringes. (I am grateful to Sandra Niessen for the identification of this ulos as a ragi hotang or huting (huting after the stippled ikat which might be thought to mimic the coat of a cat and was a popular name for this form of ikat in the 1920s and 1930s) namarsimata - the latter word referring to the very fine beadwork throughout and referred to below.)

It has fine warp ikat flashes which were carefully balanced when the textile was warped up. Beading of fine glass beads - probably bought from Indian traders and originally possibly from Venice - is incorporated into a supplementary weft to form strong designs at both ends of the ulos - see detail below - and also as fine added decoration on either side of the three supplementary weft bands dividing the length of the ulos. There is thick beading (5 rows at one end and 6 at the other) at the start of the very fine twining at the very ends of the ulos. It is possible that all the threads have been dyed with natural dyes including the soft yellow and red narrow warp stipes in the central field. The central panel of deep blue and the side borders of deep red are very probably dyed with natural dyes - indigo and morinda citrofolia respectively.

This is a very fine ulos. Today it is rather fragile with a strong tendency to shed beads when the textile is moved. It can be seen in 1972 at the funeral of Ernestina's husband, Theodorik L Tobing being worn by their youngest child, Helena.

ulos in the Vera Tobing collection photographed by Mari Pro Foto Studio, Jawa Barat Depok
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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 2 April, 2009