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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 10:55 am 
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I have just returned from a visit to Amsterdam to see two exhibits currently running at the Tropenmuseum. They are: 'Woven Worlds' and 'Batak in the Picture'. See further details of the two exhibits on the Batak in Europe website: http://www.bonapasogit.nl/Pagina's/Enge ... ovenworlds

A summary of the textile exhibit:

WOVEN WORLDS (WERELD VAN WEEFSELS)
Exhibition in the Park Room of the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam
Guest Curated by Dr. Sandra Niessen
17 February – 2 July 2006
The exhibition shows beautiful examples of Batak textiles, and the story of their collection. For centuries the Batak lived a relatively independent existence in the North Sumatran highlands. After coming contact with the colonial power in the eighteenth century, their culture changed significantly. At the same time, museums began to collect these textiles. The Batak objects in the exhibition offer insight into the development of their culture as well as the priorities, motives, and strategies of four collectors: Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk, Johan Ernst Jasper, Tassilo Adam and Sandra Niessen.

I very much enjoyed both exhibits. There are some very special Batak ulos (mainly Toba Batak) in the Woven Worlds exhibit and there were several of them - mainly the older pieces - which I was very much drawn to. I was very fortunate indeed that the guest curator of the exhibit and author of two published books and several articles on the Batak, Dr Sandra Niessen, showed me around the exhibit and shared her knowledge and the thinking behind the exhibit with me. I also heard about a new book on Batak textiles authored by Sandra which is expected to be published in mid-2007. I will put information on this upcoming book on our books forum as this will really be one to watch out for.

The Tropenmuseum is an excellent museum to visit and I was very impressed by the quality of their displays. Also a good shop and excellent restaurant faclilities. It is easily accessible via the tram system. http://www.kit.nl/ Much of the website has English as well as Dutch text.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 11:38 am 
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There has been a review of the "Woven Worlds" exhibition referred to above by the Jakarta Post which I am pasting below:

Quote:
Batak clothing on show in Amsterdam - Kunang Helmi, Contributor, Paris, Jakarta Post

Indonesian textiles are highly prized by collectors. Now in Amsterdam, an interesting show on Batak textiles from North Sumatra is attracting connoisseurs from all over the world.

Dutch-Canadian Sandra Niessen, former student of famous Dutch anthropologist P.E. de Josselin de Jong of the State University of Leiden, has spent years studying Batak textiles in North Sumatra and by viewing collections all over the world.

The author of Motifs of Life in Toba Batak texts and textiles and Batak Cloth and Clothing, A Dynamic Indonesian Tradition is hoping to bring out a third work this year with the latest results of her research. It will contain an extensive documentation of all the Batak textile types she could find, accompanied by an analysis of the history of design, the distribution of the textiles in Batak areas, and the techniques used to produce them.

Niessen guest-curated the show "Woven Worlds" based on the rich variety of Batak textiles collected over the past 150 years. She took almost two years to prepare the exhibition at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, which runs until July 2.

The show provides a survey of the techniques, the use and the collections of Batak fabrics at the Tropenmusuem, completed by Niessen's own modern-day collection. The textiles inevitably reveal much about this weaving tradition: pre-colonial Batak life being steeped in magical and mystical thought.

Myth had it that the first weaver was a goddess from the Upper World who escaped an unfortunate marriage by sliding down her spun yarn to the seas of the Underworld. There she created the earth, the Middle World. Spinning and weaving practices are thus inextricably associated with the myth of the origin of Batak peoples and society. Batak poet Sitor Situmorang read a poem about these myths of origin at the inauguration of "Woven Worlds" in February.

The textiles at the Tropenmuseum are set up chronologically and laid out in a circle. Niessen compared this to a continuous warp in the traditional Batak loom: "For Batak people, these lengthwise threads symbolize the cycle of life from birth to death, from planting to harvest, from the beginning of the year to year's end."

These textiles, which were the product of female hands, also became the medium for contact with the spirit world. Later on, the weavers successfully adapted their art to new economic and social circumstances. Thus they succeeded in transforming the fruits of their looms into items of commerce and fashion.

According to Niessen's explanatory text, this chronological order also represents the history of the Tropenmuseum collections: from the pre-colonial past (H.N. van der Tuuk), through the heyday of collecting in the early decades of the 20th century (J.E. Jasper and T. Adam), to the globalized present with Sandra Niessen's collection.

Niessen told The Jakarta Post: "I have tried to purchase an example of every design type that exists. Of course, that is not possible with all of the old design types, and in this regard my collection is complemented by old museum collections."

However Niessen has also been able to document the development of new design types, and the development of their names. So in this regard, her collection, in turn, complements all museum collections. Most of her collection is composed of antiques that she found during field work when she traveled to markets or interviewed weavers. Occasionally, something could be offered to her or she would offer to buy something from the weavers.

Niessen's collection shows how Batak women weavers adapted to present-day conditions without losing touch with ancestral skills as demonstrated in the historical collections. Despite the use of chemical dyes, and occasional use of gold or silver thread, the modern Batak textiles still attract great praise from museum visitors due to the fine weaving skills and motifs.

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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2006 4:17 pm 
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Sandra Niessen very kindly sent me some photos of the Woven Worlds exhibition which she had been sent by the Tropenmuseum. We are very grateful for the Tropenmuseum for these photos taken by their photographer which give an idea of the Batak ulos on display. 005 starts with the older ulos and moves through to some modern ulos to the left of 008


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File comment: Woven Worlds exhibition, Tropenmuseum Feb 2006
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File comment: Sandra Niessen talking to the acting Indonesian Ambassador and his wife at the opening of the Woven Worlds exhibition Feb 06
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