In this lecture Dr. Uli Kozok, professor of Hawaiian and Indo-pacific languages and literature at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, will be interviewed by visual artist Frans-Jozef van Nispen about the pustaha of the Toba Batak (Sumatra). The recently digitalized pustaha from the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam which was collected in 1850 by the Linguist Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk, will be the main focus of this talk. The book contains magical formulas, divinations, recipes and laws. This Batak bark book contains the knowledge of nine generations of the datu, the Batak priest. The pustaha can be seen as the notebook of the datu dictated to his pupils and as a supplement to oral instructions. This explains the abrupt and fragmentary character of many texts, parts are taken up by lists and tables and by magical drawings.
Does the number seven has a special meaning for the datu and what are these dragon like figures we see in this book? These questions and many others will be discussed.