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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:56 pm 
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Dear all,

I have in my collection an old Batak ulos of the lozenges variety. The piece is modest in terms of artistic ambition, but whoever made it valued it enough to adorn it with gold-wrapped thread. The double lozenges were done with short 'strokes' in indigo on white. The yarn is hand spun. It comes from an old Dutch collection. So far I have not been able to identify its type, or its likely place of origin. Can anyone help?

Best wishes,
Peter


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:14 pm 
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Peter,

My answer up front is that I do not know.

I don't understand what you mean by 'The double lozenges were done with short 'strokes' in indigo on white.' Again your photo is poor and no details shown of the patterning so that it is impossible to determine. Certainly from your photo I see no indigo.

Metallic yarn has been (and is) used by the Batak. The Karo especially have been and are attracted to it. They did switch from blue to red textiles. Today their textiles incorporate metallic threads - but are probably woven by the Toba Batak for the Karo market. I have bought (relatively new - 1997) modern Karo textiles in the market with metallic threads.

You have at least two of the same references that I have - and I am particularly thinking of Sandra Niessen's 'Legacy in cloth: Batak textiles of Indonesia' and I would refer you to this volume. It does not come up with snap answers but rewards careful reading. There is a very good, detailed index where you will find both 'gold' and 'metallic' yarns. I worked through both sets of references and now have a better sense. I suggest that you do the same. I found pages 124-125 especially interesting. 'Legacy' is based on more than 30 years of research into Batak textiles with several field visits and searches in many museums especially, but not limited to, the Netherlands. It is tempting when one has a new textile to instantly want an exact identification of it. Superficially Batak textiles can give the impression of being simple with few designs. My experience over the years as I have learnt a little more and handled more textiles is that, the old cloths in particular, are full of subtle variations.

In the case of metallic yarns the Batak lands were between Aceh to the north and the Minangkabauto the south. Although we think of the Batak as being cloistered in their mountain fastness they were considerable traders which opened their weaving up to outside influences (and, indeed, imports) including cloths and gold-wrapped yarns. Indeed such yarns probably first entered southern Sumatra from India via Srivijaya although I am not suggesting that your textile is directly linked to this trade but might be an inheritor of its influence.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:54 pm 
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Dear Pamela,

I have of course gone through Legacy in Cloth in my attempts to place this cloth, but I could not find clues that helped me identify either the type or the region with any degree of certainty. I am aware of how the book came into being, and know that it will forever remain the classic in the field. The field however is wide, and as the author keeps stressing, it is not always possible to pin a cloth down to either a specific region or a specific type.

'Strokes' is a term that Borneo-expert John Kreifeldt uses for dashes of colour along the warp. A term that is very painterly, and that I find very appropriate certainly with cloths like this.

With double lozenges I mean lozenges within lozenges. I hope these pictures make clear what I mean. You see the alsmost subliminal use of indigo?

I had briefly thought that perhaps the piece might be Karo on account of the metallic thread, but felt that I did not have enough indications to support such an identification, and that its colour rather argues against it. This cloth is quite old, certainly pre-war, but more likely early 20th C., thus predating the Karo's switch away from blue.





Thank your for your help,
Peter


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ikat_258_07w.jpg
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File comment: Detail 1
ikat_258_04w.jpg
ikat_258_04w.jpg [ 120.44 KiB | Viewed 1810 times ]

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Peter ten Hoopen
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PUSAKA COLLECTION: ONLINE MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:20 pm 
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Peter

I have downsized your images so that they fit with the forum page and do not distort it. I have also turned detail 2 so that it can be seen from the warp direction allowing, for me, an easier identification of the warp ikat threads where, indeed, the dye does seem to show indigo. That fits with most (traditional) Batak ikat where fine stripes of ikat thread interspersed with plain coloured threads are resist dyed indigo.

Personally I certainly would not use the term 'strokes' for this style of ikat as it suggests to the less technically well-informed reader that the technique for attaining the white is by painting on a resist. It is not; these white marks would have been created by binding a small bundle of threads to resist the indigo dye. Of course, I appreciate that I am someone who is particularly interested in the technique of production of a design and shy away from anything which detracts or confuses in this respect. If I was commenting on something that John Kreifeldt had written on a Borneo ikat textile I would say the same to him.

My reading of page 129 in Legacy is that red textiles developed 'during the course of the twentieth century' although 'absent from the oldest museum collections'. This could encompass your cloth depending on whether it came into being/was acquired by someone who could afford to be or was located in the forefront of fashion rather than someone who lagged behind for whatever reason.

An interesting 'nit' point could be: If a Toba weaver wove a textile to sell in the market knowing that the Karo were likely to buy it, a Karo did buy it and wear it, is it a Toba cloth or a Karo cloth?

I think that we must remember that Lake Toba as a waterway played a key part in transport, especially when the countryside was so mountainous and difficult to cross particularly with heavy goods. In tune with this there were markets held regularly around the shores of the Lake and Samosir Island (continuing to this day) which facilitated production by one group for utilisation by another and the spread of 'fashion'.

I am not saying it is Karo but I feel you should not dismiss the possibility.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:57 pm 
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Hallo Pamela,

Thank you for manipulating the images for a better fit. Yes, I see how 'strokes' could me misinterpreted by the less informed, and will limit its use, or perhaps banish it altogether, as indeed there is a method used in some regions where warp is lifted up during the weaving and dyed.

I feel that my cloth, with its relative simplicity of design and b-level execution is more likely to have been owned by someone on the poorer side of society than on the richer. But that kind of expectation may be influenced by what I know of other island societies - as is my expectation of firm correlations between design and place, style and descent, design and belief, such as you would find in a Timor beti from Manufui, a Hubi Iki sarong from Savu, etc. Even after extensive reading in Sandra Niessen's work it is only now dawning on me, that in the Batak lands, such correlations may not be so firm, and that determination, almost as a botanist would, going by the various material aspects, may not always be possible. Perhaps because they eschewed figuration and reduced patterning largely to arrangements of very fine visual elements, some mere specks, the diversity is immense. There are only so many ways you can depict a cockatoo, but there are myriads of thinkable arrays of tiny elements, with different degrees of intricacy.

I enjoy your last question, because the very fact that the question comes up says something about the Batak. This again is so different from the way we would talk about ikat from other islands. Would a Lio woman ever consider wearing a Sikka sarong, other than as a prank when stoned drunk? A Savunese woman from the Hubi Iki moiety who has obtained an Hubi Ae sarong as part of a bridal exchange, say as the bridegroom's sister, might wear the Hubi ae sarong at a festive occasion to show the interwovenness of the two moieties, but she could never wear it to an upacara, and it would always remain a Hubi Ae sarong.

For now I think I could live with your concept of a Toba cloth made for the Karo. If I receive more clarity somehow I shall share it here. Ideally of course, the clarity should appear on this forum. Manna from heaven, as so much of the stuff on this site is. I continue to now and then plug the site on the Textile Lovers group on FB, sometimes by alerting people to a post or inviting them to repeat some information on the forum, but unfortunately most people seem to prefer the immediacy of FB, accepting, perhaps unthinkingly, the tragic built in oblivion. Nothing of all that stuff that is shared is recorded. None of it searchable. Perhaps OATG should promote the site more actively, urge its members to promote it. This site is a great knowledge basis, and every time it is used, its value increases. It also gives people, especially beginners in the field, access to some experts that might otherwise be unreachable for them, perhaps even unknown.

Be well,
Peter

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PUSAKA COLLECTION: ONLINE MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:03 pm 
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Dear Peter

Thank you for your kind words about this forum.

Can I just make it clear that this http://www.tribaltextiles.info/community forum is completely separate from OATG (Oxford Asian Textile Group). OATG was originally set up 20 years ago, founded by Dr Ruth Barnes when she was at the Ashmolean, to promote the Asian textile collections of the two Oxford museums, the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers). OATG has nothing to do with http://www.tribaltextiles.info or this forum. As it happens I am an OATG member and, a few years after I joined, I offered to create a website for OATG http://www.oatg.org.uk and have managed it for them - completely separately - ever since. It now has a very good blog mainly announcing exhibitions and similar matters of interest worldwide which is separately managed but can be accessed via the main website. It is well worth signing up to receive the emails generated from the blog announcing these events.

Best wishes,

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 4:11 pm 
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Dear Pamela,

As a member of OATG I am aware of its website. As I remember you telling me one day that you were the webmaster, I thought this website and the other came from the same house. My apologies for conflating the two web presences.

Keep up the good work,
Peter

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Peter ten Hoopen
www.ikat.us

PUSAKA COLLECTION: ONLINE MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES


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