TEXTILES ?CULTURES IN BATAK SHIFTED ACCORDING TO THE WORLD ROTATION.from nomad to modern and Now just like what?when batak got money they dress like other tradition dress? So there for who is really Loyal to Batak cultures? the rich one or the poor?look at the photos you decide who is the The loyal one.Parmalim or HKBP/others

October 9, 2008 at 1:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )



Niessen, S.A. (199

3). Batak Cloth and Clothing: A Dynamic Indonesian Tradition. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9676530409


Reviewed by Heidi Boehlke, University of Minnesota

Batak Cloth and Clothing is a thoughtful integration of Batak dress and textiles and fills a void in the literature that emphasized Indonesian flat textiles. Niessen accounts for change in Batak dress that began with distinct clans and attendant dress codes and ended with vestimenuun communis, common clothing, and amalgam of Malay-Islamic and European dress, More importantly Niessen discusses “clothing substitution,” “a dualistic process of affiliation with the origin of the newly adopted styles and differentiation from the styles that are thereby rejected” (pp. 123-124). She examines Batak clothing change thematically, focusing on Malay-Islamic, Christian missionary, and colonial influences in the late nineteenth century and that legacy in contemporary Batak textiles and dress.
In her introduction Niessen acknowledges the limitations and strengths of her data. Biases by gentleman travelers and male missionaries, prevalence of “Sunday best” genre photographs, absence of European female voices, and insufficient data of textiles and dress in museums are some of the challenges she faced. In approaching clothing as a riddle, Niessen asserts the primacy and power of the actual cloth, allowing her to extrapolate the evidence in the cloth to the past. She justifies using the social structural model as the starting point for interpretation, but points out its limitations by demonstrating that clothing is not always a “mirror of social structure” (p. 6).
Niessen argues that the way in which clothing elements are selected, rejected, or transformed are “the considered statements of the times” (p. 124). Change in Batak dress occurred in two phases. The first, pre-European contact, is essentially a diffusion process where higher status Bataks embellished indigenous styles with trade items. The second phase concerned the Malay-Islamic and European encroachment in Batak territory with the loss of control by the Bataks themselves. This acculturation phase is characterized by either resistance by egalitarian-style Batak groups (Simalungun and Southern Batak). In addition, European contact differentiated male and female dress. Batak men working in church and government positions tended to incorporate some or all features of European dress, while the women did not because they were not directly involved in the colonial system. Niessen’s analysis of clothing substitutions brings to mind Erekosima and Eicher’s (1981) concept of cultural authentication developed from their study of Kalabari pelete-bite cloth in Nigeria. Kalabari women create new designs in imported check, plaid or striped cloth by lifting and cutting threads, thus making the textiles uniquely Kalabari. This process of adaptation goes beyond straight borrowing and encompasses four steps of selection, characterization, incorporation, and transformation.
The lengthy captions accompanying the many photographs and illustrations allow the casual reader a cursory understanding of her focus. Her usage of “national dress” and “fashion” in the context of Batak clothing rises issues of terminology. An appendix of past and present textile types would enhance the reader’s engagement with Niessen’s fascinating analysis. A patient reader trying to assemble a listing of textile types may be frustrated. For example, I was unable to locate the Logoboti Porsea are on any of her maps. Neither was it clear that a photograph of textiles in Porsea market (p. 55) depicted the Porsea “conservative weavings” mentioned on page 112.
Batak Cloth and Clothing provides a careful analysis of the dynamics involved in Batak rejection or incorporation of intruder dress. The author tackles the complex matter of clothing change in a colonized tribal society. Niessen’s achievement is a testament to the strength and validity of the material culture approach. This book is a welcome resource for the study of culture and dress and costume history.

Erekosima, T.V. & Eicher, J.B. (1981). Kalabari cut-thread and pulled-thread cloth. African Arts. (2). 4




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