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Ikat from Batak, Sumatra, Indonesia

252 Sumatra, Batak

Ulos (shawl)detail  magnifiermicroscope

Origin: Sumatra, Batak
Locale: Toba. Probably Silalahi, Si Tolu Huta region, else Silindung Valley.
Period: Early 20th c.
Yarn: Cotton, hand-spun, extremely fine
Technique: Warp ikat
Panels: 1
Size: 68 x 196 cm (2' 2" x 6' 5")
Weight: 225 g (7.9 oz), 169 g/m2 (0.55 oz/ft2)
Design: Ulos of the classical type padang rusak, inspired by Acehnese silk warp ikat which the Toba Batak venerated and around the turn of the century began imitating in cotton. It may also be called after its design particularity, the fact that all arrows are going in the same direction, making this a tuturtutur.
Comment: This early cloth has a remarkable amount of white, which in the Batak repertoire stands for the forces of heaven, the realm of the spirits (black standing for the underworld, red for this world). The cloth is very light, as thin as a summer shirt, but the yarn is all hand spun - an extremely fine kind. (See micro.) Weight is a mere 169 g/m2 (0.55 oz/ft2). Ochre warp, giving the cloth, despite its fresh, almost icy, colouration, a warm presence. For Batak standards of the time, which tended towards the subdued, this was quite a brazen piece. The overall impression is one of severity matched with brawn and intellect, which probably says much about the weaver.
Background: Additional information in chapters on Sumatra and Batak.
Exhibited: Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery, 2017.
Compare: 057 146 174 203 253
Literature: Basic pattern shown in Niessen, Legacy in Cloth, Cat. 5.1, p. 292, 293. This particular variant not shown in Niessen. Tuturtutur, Cat. 5.2, p. 294-295
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