Toba Batak people, North Sumatra, Indonesia
Factory-made cotton thread, probably commercial dyes, 1980s
Toba Batak weaver women living in the Balige area and on Samosir Island in Lake Toba, North Sumatra, are some of Southeast Asia’s most accomplished creators of ikats. This piece is a very common sort of ulos (the Batak word for ceremonial ikat) that a Toba family would use as a shoulder cloth, baby sling, or as an item of ritual exchange for a wedding. The sibolang would accompany the new bride on her journey to her new husband’s house; the sibolang would help bring fertility into the marriage from the wife-givers. Or, a sibolang of this modest sort could also be given as a gift to the young woman and her first baby, by the young wife’s family. The sibolang in that case would work as an important blessing gift, enhancing the health of the child.
Toba Batak weavers and dyers often use stark, abstract designs of this sort.