The Batak people of Northern Sumatra have a history of weaving Ulos ni tondi (Cloth of the Soul) for ritual & ceremonial purposes that dates back to their earliest history. Batak myth tells that Lake Toba is the centre of the Earth & that the Batak are descendants of the first humans. The Toba Batak People live on Samosir Island & around the shores of Lake Toba.
Weaving is still a vital and imporant part of the batak way of life.
Traditional Toba Batak Ulos (cloth) is hand made on a body tension (back strap) loom using hand dyed thread. Often villages produce only one or two Ulos designs, slight variations are seen between weavers. Some pieces have limited availability. Natural dyes are used in combination with commercial dyes. Twinning & braiding are techniques specifically used by the Batak. Women are the traditional weavers, children and men assist in twinning and spooling. Ulos have ritual & ceremonial meaning and are worn as head, shoulder or hip cloths. Batak people are proud of and cherish their own personal Ulos and weaving traditions.
Today you can see a fabulous array of personal Ulos being worn at ceremonies and celebrations, or being used as everyday carrying cloths and clothing.
Traditionally and to this day Ulos form part of a family's assests. Ulos are brought out and worn or displayed during ceremonies, used as dowry items and exchanged during ceremonies. Batak families keep a careful eye on which clan donates what type of Ulos and give certain Ulos back in exchange in a very formal, ritualized set of ceremonies. as a family asset, these textiles were sometimes sold to raise cash for education, funerals, weddings etc.