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Theo Frids Hutabarat

Theo Frids Hutabarat

NIAS fellow

Project title

Reimagining Pustaha

Research question

How can the pustaha be connected to the common Batak people today? Could the knowledge in the pustaha be applied to local environmental activism? Is it possible to comprehend the pustaha through artistic means?

Project description

Theo Frids Hutabarat’s project focuses on the Batak manuscripts known as pustaha and how museums in the Netherlands take care of them. He aims to study the life of these manuscripts in their current setting, far from their origin in Sumatra, Indonesia. By creating a local network that connects with the institutions housing these manuscripts, Hutabarat plans to swap certain care methods with other methods, causing a ‘glitch’ in the existing care system.

Using a collaborative approach, the project seeks to deepen the understanding of the past by exploring Batak spirituality, not just focusing on ancestors and rituals but also on political, social, and environmental histories. Pustaha are viewed as vital for rebuilding the spiritual world of the Batak people within new societal frameworks.

The project will reflect on how pustaha are interpreted (or not) and to reimagine them as a lived experience in living communities. This research aims to start the long process of reconnecting the manuscripts and their knowledge back to the Batak people.

Selected publications