at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Weavers Stories: Sisilia Sii


Sisilia Sii grew up learning the art of making ikat textiles at her mother’s side but had no formal education and never learned to read or write. When she married, she chose a husband from a different ethnolinguistic group, so no bridewealth was exchanged; Sii raised her own family in the house she inherited from her mother, essentially creating a matrilineal household. She made cloth for her family’s needs but never sold any until she was widowed at a relatively young age and had to face the challenges of raising her four children on her own. With few other resources available, she seized on weaving as a way of supporting her family. Over the years she has used this income to educate her children, rebuild her home, purchase garden land, and raise her standing in the community.

Sii’s strong relationship with her deceased mother is a focal point of her story, and she insists that she makes cloth exactly the way her mother taught her. Today this upholding of tradition has made her one of the most skilled natural dyers in a community where many have switched to synthetic dyes. It has also made her a guardian of the repertoire of ikat patterns. Barefoot and with her betel box at her side, Sii has even traveled by plane to Jakarta as a representative of her community’s artistic achievements.

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