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Rangsa ni Tonun: A Film About the Sacred Batak Weaving Tradition

On Friday, 22 November, the following documentary will be projected during the lunch break from 13:30 till 14:00
 
Rangsa ni Tonun: A Film About the Sacred Batak Weaving Tradition
 
Directed and filmed by MJA Nashir, a Javanese artist
 
Produced by Sandra Niessen
 
Synopsis
The Batak people of North Sumatra have one of the oldest weaving traditions in the Indonesian archipelago. Using backstrap looms, many generations of Batak women have toiled to meet the clothing needs of their families. Their weavings were believed to protect the body and the soul. They were indispensable to prayer and ritual.
 
The Rangsa ni Tonun film is about the production of Batak textiles. A rangsa in the Batak language is a description -- but so much more than that. Part myth, part legend, it is infused with the power of origination. It is part of the oral repertory of a Batak guru or knowledge specialist (datu/shaman). This particular rangsa is about weaving. Typically, it uses poetic language to describe each step in the production of a Batak textile. A complex text, the film medium was the most apt for ‘translating’ it. The film was made between 2010 and 2013.
 
In the text, the Batak guru explains that cotton is purchased on the market and then spread out to dry. The pits are removed when the cotton is fed between the rollers of the cotton gin. The de-pitted cotton is fluffed using a bow then rolled into so-called rolags to prepare it for spinning. After it is spun, the yarn is wrapped onto a reel. The resulting white skeins of yarn are dyed using natural colours from the leaves of the indigo shrub or the roots of the mangkudu tree. The blue yarn can be transformed into black yarn by submerging it in the mud of the rice field. To prepare the yarn for weaving, first it is starched using a rice mixture and then wound onto the warping frame. Afterwards the yarn is shifted to the loom. When the yarns are orderly, weaving can begin. 
 
The description closes with a reference to Si Boru Hasagian, the first Batak weaver from whom all Batak weavers are believed to descend. The filmed version of Rangsa ni Tonun is dedicated to all Batak weavers.
 
The Rangsa ni Tonun text was written down by Guru Sinangga ni Adji in 1872 at the behest of a missionary, I.L. Nommensen, and subsequently stored in two European archives. The oral tradition to which it belongs has died out. 
 
In September 2013, the filmmakers showed the film in Batak villages during a journey to repatriate the text. The film has had an inspiring effect on the local weaving tradition, now in crisis and in danger of disappearing forever.
 
The dvd of the film and a book about the film are available in Indonesian and English.
 
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To the extent possible under law, all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this Work, Rangsa ni Tonun: A Film About the Sacred Batak Weaving Tradition, by Angela Jansen are Reserved.