C8NBJY Karo Batak Lady Holding Tradtional Ulos Cloth

Ulos, Fabric of Sumatra

The handwoven ulos fabric of North Sumatra is an integral part of the traditional Batak community, with the cloth being used in significant religious and cultural events.

Ulos Weaving, North Sumatra, Indonesia

The many designs on ulos have their own respective meanings, with the dominant colours – red, black and white – and threads of gold and silver incorporated into intricate and colourful motifs to fulfil traditional religious ceremony requirements or to serve as symbols of social standing. The various types of ulos help the Batak community to maintain social order, with diverse ulos containing the basic principles of a philosophy of life and rules that are fixed in the kinship structure of the Batak people.

The manual production process of ulos fabric ensures the authenticity and quality of the material, with cotton yarn and various sources of dye, such as bark, grass, roots, mud and foliage, used to give the fabric its colour. Normally worn draped over a shoulder, high-quality ulos fabrics can become significant family heirlooms and can even be considered sacred, believed to have special powers to protect the wearer from any harm.