Tarutung is a large town located in the Northern region of Tapanuli, and the capital of North Tapanuli region.  Tarutung is one of the most active weaving regions in North Sumatra, keeping the traditional Ulos Batak production alive and continuing to develop a new range of designs within their songket (supplementary weft) textile designs.

My first visit to Tarutung this year has given me an opportunity to learn some of the Batak traditional textiles which I knew very little about. Many weavers here are still weaving using back-strap looms, but a huge number of textiles are also produced by the small weaving industry using shaft looms.  Weavers here in Tarutung are actively weaving daily, but unlike the weavers from Timor, Sumba or Flores, they are not really interested in sharing their daily activities with people who are not necessarily involved in buying their products, so we hear very little about them and are rarely visited by textile enthusiasts from around the world.

Unlike the traditional Ulos Batak, the Tarutung songket is produced in bright colours and usually worn with Kebaya, the Indonesian traditional national dress. We met with Mr & Mrs Simanjuntak who very kindly showed us around a few weaving places in Tarutung, where the yarns were dyed and processed.

The brightly dyed ikat yarns are ready to be woven into a beautiful songket. 

Mrs Simanjuntak herself manages a small boutique in her home and small tailoring schools for young girls. Here, the students can learn how to do intricate embroidery techniques and appliques and learn to design beautiful kebaya to match their songket. Songket selendang (the songket shoulder cloth/scarf) is designed using some old ulos designs with some modifications.

The production of Songket textiles has outnumbered the production of traditional ulos here in Tarutung in the past decade, which has helped fuel the local economy.  Creating small tailoring schools such as this one would help young girls to be more proactive and productive, providing them with a good foundation for a good independent life and would prevent them from making an unnecessary migration to other cities in Indonesia in search of work opportunities. Unfortunately, this type of activity is rare and not developed properly and totally ignored by the local government.  Luckily, Tarutung has continued to show a sign of good activities within this industry and is still the leader in the region today.

If you are interested in visiting the weavers here in Tarutung, you can combine your visit to see some tourist destinations here, such as the Salib Kasih, a large cross on the highest hill with a great view of Tarutung town.  You can also visit Aek Rangat si Poholon up the hills, a  hot water natural pool famous for its medicinal properties.  Some of the old churches of Indonesia can also be found here in Tarutung. Tarutung market is also a great place for hunting old Ulos Batak, but you need to be there very early in the morning to find some good bargains.

If you have any queries related to this blog, please do not hesitate to contact me. Visit Tarutung, you won’t be disappointed. The region offers many amazing spots to explore. Please visit the gallery below to view more images on songket Tarutung. 

Horas, horas, horas.

Nelly Andon




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