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Batak 'ulos' paves way to receiving global acclaim on National Ulos Day

Apriadi Gunawan

The Jakarta Post

Medan, North Sumatra  /  Mon, October 21, 2019  /  05:08 pm
Batak 'ulos' paves way to receiving global acclaim on National Ulos Day

Weaving 'ulos' cloth. 'Ulos' is the traditional cloth of the Batak people of North Sumatra, Indonesia. (Shutterstock/Lim W)

Hundreds of high school students wearing uniforms featuring ulos motifs excitedly spread a 500-meter-long ulos cloth across the street. Even a light drizzle did not deter them from parading the cloth on a day to celebrate ulos called “Batak Nampunasa Ulos” (ulos belongs to the Batak tribe) at Lapangan Merdeka field in Medan, North Sumatra on Thursday, Oct. 17.

North Sumatra governor Edy Rahmayadi and a number of guests took part in tortor dancing to welcome the student’s ulos parade. Citizens from the surrounding area also came to watch the carnival, wearing their ulos fabric over their clothes and as a headband to show their identity as Batak people.

In his speech, Edy addressed the people of North Sumatra to unite in preserving and promoting ulos as Batak cultural heritage. He also said the Education and Culture Ministry had declared ulos as intangible cultural heritage.

Ulos came into existence 4000 years ago, and it should be the pride of North Sumatran people. We have to promote this, because if we don’t, who else will,” said the governor to the audience.

Edy went on to say that whoever promoted ulos was naturally promoting North Sumatra as well, because it is a tradition that the younger generation should continue, and that they should even weave ulos cloth. He insisted that the ulos weaving tradition had to be known globally, and that the cloth was a symbol that united North Sumatra.

Chairperson of the Pusuk Buhit foundation, Efendy Naibaho, appreciated the support for ulos shown by the governor of North Sumatra, hoping that National Ulos Day could be formally observed every Oct. 17 by the government.

However, the head of the organizing committee for the National Ulos Day 2019 celebration, Nelly Sihite, said that in order for ulos to gain international renown, it had to be supported by a wide audience.

Nelly further explained that ulos was a symbol of affection that was traditionally given to those we care about.

“We don’t only give ulos to fellow Batak people, but also to those we care about, therefore it is expected that everyone in North Sumatra could support National Ulos Day,” said Nelly.

Read also: 'Ulos' textiles weave future for Sipirok communities

Retta Siregar, a Batak ulos weaver from Tarutung in North Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra, said she was thankful that ulos was loved by many. She said it was not easy to produce ulos cloth because the process was complicated and time-consuming.

She went on to explain that it took at least a month to create a piece of ulos cloth.

The process of making ulos could also take as long as three months, depending on the intricacy of the motif. This is the reason why a piece of ulos could be sold at a high price.

“The price of ulos starts from Rp 800,000 (US$56.67), while the most expensive could reach up to more than Rp 3 million per piece. The more intricate the motif, the higher the price,” said Retta. (mut)


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