Ulos Production, Distribution and Consumption

20 Aug 2023 9 min read No comments Culture
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The Lake Toba area is the area of origin of the Toba Batak ethnicity. Administratively, the Lake Toba Region is in the Province of North Sumatra and geographically it is located between the coordinates 2°10’3°00′ North Latitude and 98°24′ East Longitude. The Lake Toba area covers part of the administrative area of seven districts namely Samosir Regency, Toba Samosir Regency, Dairi Regency, Karo Regency, Humbang Hananglean Regency, North Tapanuli Regency and Simalungun Regency. The Lake Toba area is a plateau, inhabiting the highlands the Toba Batak people need ulos for
warming the body from the cold weather, this condition started the existence of ulos in the Toba Batak community.
The need for the existence of ulos which functions to warm the body makes many people in the Lake Toba area weave ulos. Weaving is a

work that a lot of it is done by women. Weaving activity has become a culture in producing traditional cloth which has developed until now. In the past, the Toba Batak people weaved using traditional tools by taking the weaving activity under the traditional house, along with the times the traditional weaving activity still exists but now the weaving tools have developed using machines to make human work and the production process easier.

The result woven that uses machine, the motif is only one side and the surface of the cloth looks plain. By using the machine the production process is faster and and many of the motifs produced are the same. Weaving that is produced using machines is cheap and affordable for consumers. Whereas woven products using traditional tools have the same motifs on both sides, both outside and inside and the woven threads appear to appear. Making ulos with traditional weaving tools takes a long time, between three weeks to more than one month, depending on the type of ulos being woven where the variety of difficulties and patterns of workmanship are different. Traditional ulos work can produce a variety of varied motifs, new motifs can be created by yourself and the results look more detailed.

In order to make ulos traditionally use a woven tool which is called hapulotan. As for the main materials of this tool are wood blocks and boards. The parts of this loom are; board that is where to roll and stretch the cloth on the front, hapit that is the plank clamp on the back part of the weaver, balobas that is the ruler that holds the thread, pargiunna that is the board at the bottom end near the weaver, hatuling that is the holding wood in front of the board. Plus the tools for winding yarn, namely slits, namely tools that can be rotated, hullulan, namely places to stretch threads in a circle vertically, and anian, namely places to stretch threads crosswise horizontally. The materials for making ulos are cotton thread, tese thread, and hundred threads, which are usually imported from cities such as Pematang Siantar, Medan and Jakarta. Some weavers make the materials for yarn in the traditional way and dyed using the dyed technique, where the dyes are made traditionally or with modern dyes.

According to Baudrillard, the characteristic of the consumer society is society in which there is a shift in the logic of consumption, namely from the logic of needs to the logic of desires, people do not consume the use value of the product but the sign value (Suyatno 2013: 107-110). Giving ulos (mangulosi) is a separate reason for the Batak people, where ulos are a medium for the Toba Batak people to show affection and socialize. As Douglas and Isherwood in Featherstone argue, that in today’s society goods are used to build social relationships (Featherstone, 1992: 14). Ulos as a means of socializing can be seen at traditional wedding ceremonies, where the procession of giving ulos is at the end of the traditional ceremony. Someone will socialize with other people or relatives while waiting for the ulos to be given to the bride and groom. During this waiting time they will discuss various things, such as family, work, hometown, customs, customs, while enjoying various food and drink offerings provided by the family holding the wedding party.

Society only consumes the image that is attached to the item (no longer its use) so that the community as a consumer never feels satisfied and will trigger continuous consumption, because every individual’s daily life can be seen from the consumption activities, the goods and services purchased and used by every individual, which is also based on the images given by the product (Murti, 2005: 38). Ulos becomes an item that is consumed by the community, where ulos is not only a traditional weaving used in various traditional ceremonies.

Now ulos has become someone’s social status symbol amidst society. Someone’s social status will be seen when using an ulos, if someone has already married a son and has had grandchildren from their children then that person will use ulos yeast in traditional ceremonies, where the status is already at marpahoppu level (grandfather/grandmother). However, now efforts to actualize social status have been carried out in various ways, including by wearing ulos which are beautiful and expensive when participating in traditional ceremonies, as is currently prevalent using Tarutung weaving. Another way to do this is by giving beautiful and expensive ulos to relatives who carry out traditional ceremonies, so that broad relatives who see judge the person to be in the upper middle class.

Lifestyles are patterned ways of investing certain aspects of everyday life with social or symbolic value; but this also means that lifestyle is a way of playing identity (Chaney, 1996: 92). This style of life can be seen in the implementation of giving ulos to various areas in the Lake Toba area, where initially the ulos were only given by closest relatives, but now the ulos givers are also broad relatives. The closest hula give ulos to their boru who carry out traditional ceremonies, such as parents to their daughters or brothers to their sisters (itonya). But now the giving of ulos has been carried out by broad hula-hula elements to the boru who carry out traditional ceremonies. If one clan becomes hula-hula in a traditional ceremony, the group of that clan will give ulos to the boru. The ulos given is called ulos holong (ulos love). The giving of ulos holong has become increasingly common in the last twenty years. Giving ulos holong can be seen at traditional ceremony of marriage, death or ceremony of exhuming the bones of a deceased person (mangokkal holi).

From an economic perspective, ulos is a source of livelihood for the people in the Lake Toba area. There are various businesses based on the populist economy originating from ulos, including individual weaving businesses and manufacturing weaving businesses as well as traders who open ulos stalls. Some partonun (weavers) sell ulos themselves, either directly to orderers or online, but in general most partonun sell ulos to suppliers or tauke. Prices for ulos vary around Rp. 50.000,- up to Rp. 5,000,000,-. In this way partonun gets cash from every sale of ulos.

Business ulos is a micro scale (household) business that can increase people’s income. With the increasing consumption of the community, the need for ulos has now grown a lot of new weavers in the Lake Toba area. This growth is motivated by the economic potential of ulos which can become the main income support for the people in the Lake Toba area, namely from the agricultural sector. In fact, for some people in the Lake Toba area, weaving ulos has become their main livelihood.

Ulos weavers or traders already have regular customers, who contact regularly, come directly to the house or kiosk to see and buy ulos. A person can be said as a customer if that person starts to get used to buying a product or service offered by a company. This habit can be built through repeated purchases within a certain period of time, if a certain period of time does not repurchase then that person cannot be said to be a customer but as a buyer or consumer (Musanto, 2004: 128). Buyers or 7 customers of ulos come from various regions in Indonesia such as; Pematang Siantar, Medan, Pekanbaru, Jakarta and Surabaya. Buyers usually order ulos for their own use, while customers are usually suppliers who will resell the ulos.

Ulos can be developed as an economic potential for the community in the Lake Toba area. The Lake Toba area is currently a super priority tourist destination determined by the President of the Republic of Indonesia. ulos business which is still traditional can be developed into quality modern clothing industry. Ulos can be produced with various interesting designs. Creative ideas that can produce suits, shirts, pants, skirts, bags and various other goods made from ulos with various sizes to be marketed to tourists.

Along with the production of quality ulos it is also necessary to develop ulos kiosks. ulos stalls that already exist in various tourist places in the Lake Toba area can be developed into clean and comfortable places as well as demonstrating quality ulos. Thus visitors who come can become customers. Meanwhile the way to retain customers is to provide high customer satisfaction. So it will be more difficult for rivals to break through barriers by offering lower prices or other stimuli (Sunyoto, 2014: 233-234). Customers are a source of income and profit, customers who are satisfied not only will come back again but will bring friends or colleagues who are expected to become new customers. Customers who recommend their ulos weavers or traders to friends or colleagues will first share stories about experience and quality of ulos from their customers. In this way friends or colleagues no longer need to come directly to the weaver or trader’s kiosk but communicate and transact online.

Entrepreneurs It’s not enough just to pursue customer satisfaction but how can you take care of, care about the slightest customer complaint and be maintained so that they remain loyal customers as long as the business operates (Basrowi, 2011: 100).

The existence of a tourist village in the area of Lake Toba is also a separate attraction for tourists. In the tourist village tourists can see directly the process of making ulos traditionally and can directly buy ulos directly from the weavers. Weavers also can directly receive advice on the quality of the ulos woven and orders for ulos motifs that consumers want. The friendly service of weavers and traders needs to be improved in line with the provision of reasonable and affordable prices for ulos to increase the trade sector in Lake Toba area. This kind of atmosphere gives a good impression for tourists so that it can be an effective promotion strategy in attracting tourists from within and outside the country.


Sources: Harisan Boni Firmando

Author: 1toba


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