Confusing Contentment

By blouseybrown


For those who may be interested.

This design is based on an early 20th century siga (headdress) from Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, South East Asia made from barkcloth. I have taken the motifs and shuffled them around a bit and changed the colour scheme. What I tried to do what just memorise the motifs and draw them from memory rather than copying. I notice there is variation of any particular motif within the original design. I tried to add in my own variations. 

I have used a square. While the original looks to be square, it really has the corners stretched out. I wondered if that happened before or after the design was applied. I am inclined so say that it was before, and that the design is deliberately distorted to fit into pulled out corners. But it could have been stretched after the design. Also in one diagonal there is far less pattern than the other and that diagonal is quite creased, which suggests it has been worn and knotted.

I found scrutinising this piece that I had a lot of questions. Here are a few:
1 How big is it? 
2 How was it worn?
3 Who was it worn by?
4 What do the pointy curled bits represent? 

1 I am surprised that the size isn't mentioned on the exhibit information, but checking other examples of siga online suggests it is around 85cm square. My paper is 30cm square and is just the centre portion design or about half of the overall length/width. So mine is about two thirds the size of the original or about 66% smaller (28cm on mine = 42.5cm on original).

2 At first I was imagining it was worn like a silk headscarf might be tied under the chin. Or like a bandanna tied around the head knotted at the back. But the fabric, if it is like other barkcloth, may be quite stiff. So perhaps it is folded into a triangle and the more patterned corner sticks up with the less pattered corners tied together at the back. I of course googled for a picture of someone wearing a siga and so far have only come up with this which suggests representing horns to me, which is plausible, but something quite different than I had thought.  

3 I haven't got a definitive answer on this. Men, ceremonially.

4 I thought at first they were fish hooks, then I decided they seem to be leaves around a cob of corn, but I have read that they could be buffalo horns. Not convinced about the latter.

If you had hours to lose, I found this interesting piece about the history and how this cloth is made and other little treasures, such as this:

"In 1905 two scholarly Dutch missionaries who had spent almost a decade studying local cultures and languages in Indonesian concluded that the barkcloth was undoubtedly the original clothing material of the entire Indonesian archipelago. Moreover, all of the regions where barkcloth was known to be produced and used for either clothing or paper, the interior of Central Sulawesi was described as the source of the most elaborate creations of this unusual fabric technology."

"It is in this kingdom [Kaili] where men and women are clad in nothing but paper, and that not being lasting, the women are always working at it very curiously. It is made of the rind of a small tree we saw there, which they beat with a stone curiously wrought, and make it as they please, either coarse, fine or very fine. They dye it all colours, and twenty paces off it looks like fine tabby. A great deal of it is carry'd to Manila and Macao where I have seen excellent bed-hangings made from it; they are the best you would desire in cold weather. When it rains, water being the destruction of paper, those people strip and carry their clothes under their arm." (Navarette, in Cummins 1962:110 - comments written by the Spanish friar Domingo Navarrette after a one-month visit to the Palu Valley in 1657).

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