Textile Museum Associates of Southern California
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Batak Textiles of Sumatra, Indonesia: Reviewing the Repertory”

with Dr. Sandra Niessen, The Netherlands

Batak weavers make more than 100 clearly-defined “design types”.  Scholars such as Mattiebelle Gittinger and Robyn Maxwell have claimed that traditional Batak textiles exhibit some of the earliest design and technical themes found in the Indonesian archipelago. In this talk, Sandra Niessen will explain how the textiles are made up of layers of influences that have reached the Batak during the past two millennia. The tradition is changing rapidly. Modern textile developments represent much loss but also some interesting gain. Niessen will propose ways in which her new publication, Legacy in Cloth, might influence the future of this once-vibrant, ancient tradition that is now undeniably in decline.

Sandra Niessen (Canadian and Dutch) obtained her PhD at Leiden University (Netherlands) in 1985 for a thesis entitled Motifs of Life in Toba Batak Texts and Textiles. The theme of Batak textiles has been a red thread throughout her career and she has carried out fieldwork several times in North Sumatra, Indonesia. A student of Rita Bolland, she has emphasized the importance of understanding weaving techniques in the analysis of Batak textiles. Sandra was guest curator and lecturer at the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology and Department of Anthropology and Sociology after she finished her doctoral and then she shifted to the Department of Clothing and Textiles at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada) on a Killam Post-Doctoral Fellowship. In 2004, she returned to The Netherlands to finish her latest book, Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia. Among other topics, she has also researched fashion in a global world. She has published 9 books and dozens of articles and curated 'Woven Worlds' (2006) at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

 

 

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