top of page

‘The Batak Bulang: from Cast-off to Art’

16th OCTOBER 2018 at 7pm

A talk by Sandra Niessen

Sandra Niessen, PhD., an anthropologist, started studying the textiles of the Batak people of North Sumatra in 1980. During the ensuing 40 years the Batak weaving arts continued their drastic decline and are now extinct in many areas. Since publishing her encyclopaedic work on this tradition, entitled Legacy in Cloth, Batak textiles of Indonesia, Sandra has felt impelled to change her focus from research to revival and maintenance of Batak textiles.

Sandra will focus on the bulang, the headcloth worn by the Simalungun Batak people (the people living to the East of Lake Toba). She has built a small house in Nagori Tongah so that she can spend time in this very poor village that used to specialize in the making of this textile. To date, Sandra has found only one weaver prepared to pick up the loom once again after a hiatus of 15 years and that weaver made two wonderful bulang textiles for the recent exhibition on "A World of Looms: Weaving Technology and Textile Arts in China and Beyond" at the China National Silk Museum. Sandra will also discuss her aspirations and challenges in trying to keep the textile from going extinct.


bottom of page