The Historical Paths of Sahu Ceremonial Textiles

Visser, Leontine E.


The people of the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera do not have a weaving history. Only the Sahu make a conscious selection of foreign textiles, colours, patterns, and motifs for ceremonial purposes. They brought home from Ternate handwoven sarongs made on or traded to Ternate from Sulawesi. Particularly interesting are an indigo-and-red ikat and a yellow- and-red handwoven cloth associated with the domain of Kolincucu on the island of Wolio/Buton. The Sahu chose for their ceremonial textiles the geometric patterns of the handwoven cloths, and blended them with embroidered scarfs and additional non-geometric motifs resembling those found on barkcloth and plaited mats, especially in northeast Halmahera. Written sources and museum collections from other Sulawesi and Moluccan societies/cultures are testament to unique historical paths of more than 150 years shaping Sahu cultural continuity and material change, until today.