Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


This paper focuses on the silk tapestry headcloths woven by Tausug peoples from the Philippine Sulu Archipelago. Called pis siyabet, they captured my attention because they diverge so wildly from the cotton or abaca warp ikat weaving one associates with indigenous peoples from the Philippines and Indonesia. Their material, structure, motif and color fly in the face of local tradition. The dense complexity created by their interlocking square, triangle and diamond motifs suggests cosmic mazes - treasure maps to the unconscious. Pis puzzle us and compel our imaginations.

Some history is in order. The Philippine Archipelago was first peopled during the Pleistocene when it was connected by land bridges with the Southeast Asia main land. What became the Sulus offered a warm climate, access to water trade, fertile volcanic soils. It wasn't surprising that more people followed: voyagers in outrigger canoes from the Indonesian islands in 3000 B.C., Malay headhunters beginning in 300 B.C., and Chinese trader-adventurers in the 10th century.