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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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This is a Sibolang which is the highest status of three indigo-dyed textiles (sibolang, bolean and surisuri) used for Toba Batak rituals. It would probably have been woven not in the Silindung valley but close to Lake Toba, or on Samosir Island. Sandra Niessen on page 177 of "Legacy in cloth: Batak textiles of Indonesia" states that: "The sibolang is especially important in Toba Samosir and could have once been as important in Toba Holbung and Toba Silindung. It does not appear to have figured as prominently in Toba Uluan. While production was once widespread with each village making its own distinctive variant, at the time of my fieldwork (1986-90), the cloth was being woven for market trade in Muara and Bangkara, on the west bank of Lake Toba."

This sibolang was originally in the collection of Vera Tobing's mother, Tianur br. Hutabarat and, in March 2007, was thought to be about 50 years old (i.e. woven in the late 1950s). It is 240 cm (without fringes) x100 cm. This style of sibolang is known as a sibolang si lima tuho the name given when there are five bands of ikat patterning.

Sandra Niessen in 'Batak Cloth and Clothing: A Dynamic Indonesian Tradition' says on page 36, Fig. 26. "On Samosir Island, the visitor will be struck by the simple but elegant rich blue set of indigo-dyed sibolang, bolean and surisuri textiles. In this style region, the sibolang is the highest status textile. An inhabitant of Samosir Island, very knowledgeable in ritual affairs, told me (Sandra Niessen) that this triumvirate of indigo-dyed cloths represented the nucleus of the Batak textile traditon and that the more than one hundred other design types within that tradition were only 'additions' to this elegant blue core."

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 23 January, 2014