General: The classic Batak Ulos Pinunsaan or Ragidup is five panel cloth distinguished by plain sides with supplementary warp stripes on the center facing edge, a central section carrying supplementary warp ikat stripes of varying complexity and at either end, panels with supplementary weft patterning in black, red and white carrying both complex male and female symbolism (the “pinar halak”)
There is some confusion over the naming of this style of Batak Toba cloth. It can be called either a Pinunsaan or a Ragidup. Although they are essentially of the same style of cloth and of a similar ritual importance, they are in fact very different cloths. The Pinunsaan is woven in the areas immediately surrounding Lake Toba with each of the five elements being stitched together to form the whole. The Ragidup, on the other hand, is woven to the south of Lake Toba around Taratung in the Siliding Valley. In this cloth the supplementary weft elements are attached by weaving to the central panel and only the side panels attached by stitching. The supplementary weft panels in the Pinunsaan (the pinar halak) also tend to be more detailed and complex.
The Ulos Pinunsaan and Ragidup are the most significant of Batak textiles and general worn as a shoulder cloth at important ceremonies or “adat” such as at ceremonies marking birth, marriage, death and the reburial of bones. It may also be used as a shawl, wrap or skirt (sarong). It is an important symbolic gift at weddings, given by the father of the bride to the mother of the bridegroom, to cement family relationships, and is also gifted at other important life transitions, such as the seventh month of pregnancy. These cloths are passed from parents to children and form an important part of Batak family inheritance.
Specific: In this example the five panels are sewn together so it is classed as a Pinunsaan.
The cloth was unused when purchased in 1978 so is a very clean example probably woven in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. The stitching attaching the panels is by machine. The side panels are deep purple to black in color (or more likely over dyed in deep indigo) and are distinguished by having additional supplementary warp elements at either end. The main male and female supplementary warp panels (pinar halak) are extremely well woven indicating that the cloth was made by a very skilled master weaver. The supplementary warp ikat elements on the centre panel are also finely executed. A narrow ikat selvedge binds the tightly twisted warp fringes.