Pis Siyabit

pis siyabit
Pis siyabit | @natmuseumwsm

Pis siyabit is the Tausug handwoven square piece of cloth with intricate and varied geometric designs. Many believe that the pis siyabit design is the Tausug version of the Hindu mandala.

In Sulu, a geometric ukkil is called siyabit, which means “to hook,” an act of weaving angular design. The warp of pis siyabit is marked to form a guide for the tapestry-like silk weaving. Its border is decorated with a zigzag and cross patterns, making the entire parts of the fabric filled with design elements, which expresses the principle of horror vacui (fear of empty spaces). The pis siyabit has four identical squares in its inner corners representing the elements of fire, air, water, and earth. It also has four identical rectangles surrounding the central square, which is the biggest and has the most intricate design consisting of a zigzag, lines, triangles, lozenges, swastika, and cross patterns. The center motif connects the four corners and produces imaginary axes, making the whole design one, corresponding to the Islamic concept of Tawhid or Unity.

Darhata Sawabi is an exemplary artist among weavers of pis syabit in Parang Sulu. Her passion and commitment to her art and unwavering efforts to impart her knowledge and skills safeguarded the traditional Tausug designs for the next generations. In recognition of her achievements and contributions, she was conferred the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) award by the National Commission for Culture and the Nurds in 2004.

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