Flora & Fauna
Volume 88 | May 2012
insidesumatera.com | tourism & lifestyle magazine - Pustaha Laklak, the Heritage of Honor Shamans
Pustaha Laklak, the Heritage
Rabu, 14 Januari 2009 | 09:49:32
Pustaha Laklak, the Heritage of Honor Shamans
by. Thompson HS
Are you a collector of unique traditional souvenirs? Do not forget to add your collection with one of the souvenirs from Tomok tourism place (Samosir), i.e. pustaha laklak. There, the souvenirs shops sell such craft known as laklak. Laklak itself means skin, especially for plants like banana, sugarcane, or peanut. For example, when one says laklak ni tobu, that would mean ‘the bark of a sugarcane’. Do not have misinterpretation so that you try to use laklak to refer to human or animal skin. There is an impression that laklak becomes handy craft and souvenirs due to its decrease in function. Therefore, pronouncing it completely by pustaha laklak might sound impressive, while simply by saying laklak cannot erase the classical impression it has. Pustaha translated as book or document. Accordingly, pustaha laklak means book/document made of bark or peel. In the old time, pustaha laklak was a storage media for information on black magic, shaman’s craft, oracle and mythology. All information was written syllabically in Batak orthography, symbols of certain animals and plants until course of the wind as well as spells map such as bindu matoga. The owner, usually shaman, used the information for numerous purposes related to their profession. Keeping pustaha laklak for a Batak family could give special impression, which probably related to the fact that the family is the descendants of a shaman, skilled person or noble. The existence of pustaha laklak might be related to the existence of writing tradition in Batak people. The tradition marked by the coming of two documents from Raja Batak, the genealogy ancestors of Batak people. Both documents was agong letter (a letter written with wood charcoal as its ink) and pustaha tumbaga holing (tembaga keling document). There was an assumption that the two letters were inherited in the first millennium. Until the end of the nineteenth century, not many Batak people could write in Batak script, let alone using laklak as the media. Shaman is still the person who is able to write and read laklak script. There was a time when quite many pustaha laklak produced by shamans and the intellectuals of the time found in Mandailing (South Tapanuli). Each shaman created pustaha laklak with various Batak scripts. Meaning, there were some symbol differences in certain script in their writing. It might be due to the secrecy of the knowledge. Until present time, the variety can be observed from the script used in Mandailing, Toba, Pakpak, Karo and Simalungun. Besides that, the content or the amount of the symbols in the writings could lengthen the size of pustaha laklak that could be up to around 10 m long. Beside National Museum in Jakarta and North Sumatera, the ancient models of pustaha laklak can also be found in Netherland, German, United Kingdom, and France. Pustaha laklak which in the old time used as a medium for magical craft has changed in function. To avoid discussing about the change of function in pustaha laklak, there is interesting information on the substance and the making process. The wood material for pustaha cover made of certain kinds of wood such as wood from jackfruit bark or local trees. The cover was smoothening before added with ornaments or carved. The carved cover is the upper side cover. Meanwhile, the abutment or the stick can be put on the lower part of the cover. Some cover made in the shape of a box to support the thickness and the length such as the 10 m laklak above. However, the upper cover is usually used as the box’s cover. Having the ornaments and carving, it is commonly added with certain dark color for its unique impression. The making process can be done after the inner part which made of the bark or peel attached to the covers. Before furnishing the inner part, there are some initial processed to be done. The kinds of bark used for the inner part is hau alim (aquilaria malaccensis). This wood found in Batak remote area. It was said that a long time ago, this kind of wood could only be found in Barus and Asahan. This is probably an additional factor, which make pustaha laklak unique. The bark needed is taken directly from the tree and the new bark will grow on the tree. The fiber bark is thinned according to the standard thickness and length. The tool for this process is a special sharp knife. Afterwards, the folding sized is matched with the size of both covers. When the inner part attached to both covers, the opened folding will look similar to the folding of accordion (a musical instrument). Now, if you wish to have the written pustaha laklak similar to the ancient model, you can choose and ask the meaning. However, if you wish to fill the pustaha laklak yourself, you could order them to pustaha laklak artisans in Tomok. Probably you want to write family biography with your own writing and ink or board marker. The process is not as hard as it used to be in the past.
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