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Catalog of Batak Texts: Laments

catalog 48466

A Karo-Batak love lament (birang-birang) inscribed on a bamboo weaving shuttle (turak). The inscriptions have been translated by U. Kozok. Kozok describes the writing as "standard Karo Batak writing." According to Kozok, the shuttle was intended as a gift to the beloved (Tarigan) of the first person narrator (Karo-Karo), an only child who has been forced to leave his Karo highland homeland. The lament reads (Kozok 2003:141-42):

          This is a lament on belangké bamboo
          slashed by the son of the Karo-Karo clan
          to become a shuttle for my sister of the Tarigan clan
          so that you will love to learn how to plait, how to weave
          O my sister of the Tarigan clan

          I say this because
          the product of your plaiting might become the bridge
          where my people will meet
          if not, I see that my people will expel me
          and where then shall I go, the son of the Karo-Karo clan
          the only child, the most unlucky person

          O friend, who reads the letters of my words
          don’t take offence
          O friend, who reads the letters of my words
          much is, I see, that I wrote
          not the eyes [but] I have to be able to tell it
          to the sister of the Tarigan clan, the youngest child

          The reason why I say this is
          because I can see the burden that I, your brother, have to carry
          it’s like the shimmering heat that is hanging in the middle of the day
          we can’t say it hangs since there is no rope to see
          we can’t say it lays because it does not leave any trace
          this is, I see, the burden that the son of the Karo-Karo clan has to carry
          the most unlucky person 
          O sister

          So there was no other way
          it was inevitable that I, your brother, had to leave
          traveling to the downstream land
          passing through the endless forest
          O sister
          Because that is the place where all those meet
          who carry ill fate
          O my sister of the Tarigan clan.

          The reason why I say this, is that
          small parts of white silver and yellow gold
          will be gathered by the goldsmith
          O sister
          when I have to wander far 
          will there be a place to settle?
          O sister of the Tarigan clan, say I, the youngest child.

The front half of the shuttle contains the inscribed lament, while the rear has incised vertical lines. The tip of the shuttle is stained a deeper hue.

A letter written by H. Bartlett on September 2, 1918, describes his purchase of this object from an elderly Karo woman in Kampong Poetren.

A short bamboo tube section inscribed with Batak text, which P. Voorhoeve identified as a short lamentation during his visit to the Museum of Anthropology (Voorhoeve 1979). The tube has not been smoked in the final finishing process. Bartlett labeled the tube "No. 71," and it is likely this tube may have been produced in the same location as 48396.