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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

The ulos shown below are part of the Toba Batak family inheritance of Vera Tobing. They include ulos woven by Vera's grandmother, Ernestina br.Hutagalung (born in 1893) - the top row of four - and Vera's mother, Tianur br.Hutabarat (born in 1925) - the fifth row of three. The collection also includes ulos woven by professional weavers which were given or worn as part of family adat (ritual celebration) ceremonies. Although Vera did not directly continue the family tradition of weaving, in the 1980s and 1990s, together with the local government, she worked with a local group of weavers to utilise traditional Toba Batak weaving in a modern context. Included below is an ulos from that time which, although not given in an adat ceremony, remains true to traditional design. The three Bugis silk sarongs in the bottom row were worn by Ernestina's husband, Theodorik L.Tobing, when negotiating the marriages of his daughters and at the weddings of his sons.

Early in January 2006 it was my good fortune to receive a 'virtual' introduction to Vera's daughter, Maria and, over a period of 18 months most of the textiles featured here have subsequently come into my collection. Through Maria's unstinting efforts - continually prompted by my never ending questions - it has been possible to put together this group of fine textiles in this web photogallery and to gradually assemble some of the family history to which they relate, including some family photos - although this remains 'work in progress'. It has been a rare privilege for me to gain an insight into the history of North Sumatra from the latter part of the 19th Century to the present day through this Batak family story. Click on an individual ulos below for an enlargement and information on it.

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

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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 Sandra's website and Batak references for more information about Sandra and her publications.

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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, 2011