Art Through Time: A Global View
Dreams and Visions Art: “Sisilia Sii–Weaver”
Sisilia Sii, a weaver on the island of Flores in Indonesia, creates traditional textiles using the ikat method, a process that involves months of complex work to complete a single cloth.
Intricate patterns are created through the tying together of cotton fibers and the application of plant-based indigo and morina dyes.
Sisilia’s mother taught her the arts of weaving and tying, but at the time of her mother’s death, she still had two patterns—the nggaja and sémba—to learn. According to custom, these particular patterns were restricted to women of senior standing in the community, and Sisilia had not yet achieved that status.
In Flores, it is believed that spirit guardians appear to weavers in their dreams to guide them in the creation of specific patterns. Sisilia describes how her deceased mother later appeared to her in a dream to teach her how to tie the nggaja and sémbapatterns, finally granting her permission to make them herself. Thus, an encounter in the dream world helped ensure the continuation of indigenous weaving traditions from one generation to the next.
Expert Perspective: Roy W. Hamilton, Curator for Asian and Pacific Collections, Fowler Museum at UCLA
“The weaver describes how dream inspiration has played a role in her creative process in making textiles. She talks about a dream where her mother appeared to her to teach her a final pattern that she hadn’t mastered up to that point. The issue is that even a young weaver learns a lot of different patterns, and she had learned all those patterns sitting beside her mother in her youth. But her mother died before she learned the most advanced patterns. And a woman is supposed to have senior standing in the community and be highly recognized and regarded for her skill before she would even attempt to do those patterns. Her mother had always told her in her youth that she couldn’t make those until she had this advanced standing. So years went by, and then finally, in her sleep, her mother came to her in a dream and told her that she had to make those patterns.
Now obviously, as an accomplished weaver, she could have made these patterns. But the issue really is she needed the permission from her mother.”
“Sisilia Sii – Weaver.” In Intersections Media Gallery. Fowler Museum at UCLA Web site. http://collections.fowler.ucla.edu/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=500103;type=601.
Gittinger, Mattiebelle. Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Traditions in Indonesia.Washington, D.C.: The Textile Museum, 1979.
Hamilton, Roy W., and Ruth Barnes. Gift of the Cotton Maiden: Textiles of Flores and the Solor Islands. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1994.
Thompson, Angela. Textiles of South-East Asia. Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: Crowood, 2008.