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Ragi Hotang Ulos
Toba Batak people, North Sumatra, Indonesia
Commercial cotton threads, probably commercial dyes,
Circa 1950s-1980s
Ikat stippling and narrow warp stripes; supplementary weft at fringe ends
Private collection

toba batak ulos detail
ulos detail

As reported by Sandra Niessen in her comprehensive Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia (2009, KITLV Press), Toba Batak weavers “commonly interpret the name [ragi hotang, rattan design] as referring to the ikat stipples that resemble flecks in the bark of the rattan vine” (p. 267). Ikat work of this sort is subtle and quite different from the big figural designs of animals or spirits found in some Eastern Indonesian or Borneo ikats.

Ragi Hotang are woven today in the Toba regions of Silindung, Holbung, and on Samosir Island. Some weavers today use semi-mechanized looms.  As Niessen notes, there is much variation among Ragi Hotang textiles throughout Toba. Today, some weavers are adding in gold-wrapped thread as supplementary wefts. This piece is more subdued, however.

In Toba village society and also among Toba émigré communities in many large Indonesian cities, ulos (a generic word for ‘blanket,’ meaning ceremonial hand woven Batak textiles) are used as ritual clothing, as marriage exchange gifts at weddings (gifts from the wife givers), and as cloaks that convey supernatural blessings. The Ragi Hotang is one of the major Toba ulos forms.