Sadum, Ulos Batak for the happy occasions

Sadum, Ulos Batak for the happy occasions

Ulos is the traditional textile of the Batak people of North Sumatra. In this region Ulos means blanket, where people here in the past used ulos mostly as a blanket or shoulder cloth (for a smaller ulos), to keep themselves warm as the Bataks usually live in the mountains part of the land, and the temperature usually slightly colder up the hills. Different types of ulos have different ceremonial significance. Ulos is normally worn draped over the shoulders or for the larger ulos, they are used as a sarong, or dress for a woman. The Bataks don’t wear ulos every day, they are usually worn or used for ceremonial purposes, such as a wedding, funeral, birth or religious related events. Most Ulos are traditionally hand woven, but the designs and colour of ulos are evolving with times. Ulos that are vintage or antique proofed to have better quality, and they are normally left to the recipients as heirlooms.

Ulos Batak usually consists of warp ikat designs and fairly simple geometric shapes, and in the olden days usually dyed using natural earthy colours, or other deep natural colours such dark indigo, red maroon or charcoal black, or white. It is rather exceptional that the Batak people have created ulos “Sadum” ulos with truly colourful designs, made for happy occasions, and play very important roles in Batak ceremonial events.  The original Ulos sadum was created with dark backgrounds and decorated with amazingly colourful glass beads and vibrant supplementary weft weaving designs.

Due to popularity and the great demand for  Ulos Sadum, the use of ATBM (The shaft loom) in today’s production has pushed aside the traditional production using body tension looms (back-strap loom) and the mass production using ATBM  have diminished the quality of Ulos in general, particularly the bright colour ones.

Although a lot of Ulos in circulation today are made using shaft loom (ATBM), there are still a lot of backstrap weavers actively weaving in many villages around Lake Toba. These weavers are usually working alone (they don’t belong in any weavers group like most weavers in NTT), hence is fairly hard to find them.

Tarutung and the surround areas in the North Tapanuli region of Lake Toba, is the most actively producing region of Ulos Batak, the largest Ulos and Batak Songket producer in the region. Tarutung is located only around 20 minutes drive from Silangit International Airport.


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