Among the hundreds of ethnic groups living in Indonesia, the Batak are one of the most famous. Their traditional architecture, sculpture, textiles and other arts have been widely documented, but this is the first publication to examine their rich jewelry traditions. Batak jewelry is characterised by a wide variety of materials and forms and has many functions: it can be a status symbol, a badge of rank, an attribute of membership into a certain age group, an amulet and talisman, or simply an ornament. Jewelry was worn by men and women, and even babies and small children were adorned with gold, silver, brass, bronze, or the gold and copper alloy known as suasa. The jewelry varied depending on the sex and age of its wearer. Today, the Batak wear traditional jewelry only for celebrations like weddings, and these stunnign works are rapidly disappearing, being either melted down or sold. The nearly 300 precious works shown here in gorgeous new photographs are rare artifacts of a once-flourishing jewelry tradition.
Achim Sibeth studied cultural anthropology and art history at the University of Freiburg in Germany, where he developed an interest in Indonesian cultures, particularly that of the Batak, the Javanese and the Ngadha of central Flores. He has done extensive fieldwork in Indonesia and written several important books and a great number of essays on its art and cultures. Specifically, he is known for his expertise on Batak Art. Achim Sibeth was an anthropologist at the well-known Linden-Museum in Stuttgart for several years in the 1980s and held the position of curator of the Southeast Asian collection at the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt/Main from 1990-2010. He has also organised numerous acclaimed exhibitions to promote the appreciation and understanding of both traditional and contemporary Indonesian Art. Since April 2010 he has been the curator and chief editor of the Mandala Foundation Singapore.