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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

This very fine ulos namarpisoran 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 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 205 x 76 cm, including fringes.

It has fine warp ikat flashes carefully balanced when the textile was warped up to give a very subtle repeating diamond design in the central panel. Beading of small glass beads is incorporated into a supplementary weft to form strong designs in various colours of beading at both ends of the ulos - see detail below - and also as fine additional decoration on either side of the three supplementary weft bands dividing the length of the ulos. There is thick beading at the start of the fine twining at the very ends of the ulos. The designs of the three supplementary weft bands are based on ancient designs. Similar designs may be found in the decoration on ancient Dong Son drums. It is possible that all the threads for the ulos 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 of natural dyes - indigo and morinda citrofolia respectively.

I am indebted to Sandra Niessen for the light shed on this textile in her personal communication on this ulos: "the Simarpusoran (or pisoran) with beadwork (na marsimata) was a fad in the colonial era. The sirara na marsimata are of similar ilk. Simarpusoran are still made, but they are no longer the rage as they once were. Alas! And that kind of beadwork is also a fad of the past. The textile is named after its ikat patterning".

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 27 February, 2009