Women in Buka and Bougainville continue to wear these capes. There are three types: 1) undecorated, 2) with two to six red bands placed along their width 3) with intricately patterned stitching. All three types are worn at important events such as weddings, births, a girl's initiation or at funerals.
Capes are made from strips of pandanus leaves rubbed with sand, dried and sewn together into a double layer. The intricate decoration of the sinsus (such as the one displayed here) is made by overstitching red pandanus fibre thread (dyed using the roots of the Morinda citrifolia tree), or black fibre (dyed using parts of a wild banana). Only women who are the highest ranking chiefs or paramount chiefs wear sinsu.
All three types fend off the sun and rain. But they also keep the wearer hidden from her male in-laws. During a woman's marriage, the bride's mother wears the cape to prevent eye contact with the groom's family. There are many stages in a marriage and during the final one the groom offers shell valuables to the bride's mother. In accepting the valuables, the mother gives her approval to the marriage and the groom lifts the cape from his future mother-in-law
A wedding cape, made from pandanus leaves and coloured thread. The fibre is either left a natural colour or dyed; the leaves are sewn together with overlapping edges forming a sheet. The front and back sheets are joined and folded in the centre, and the edges are sewn. Two edges are sewn together along one side to form a cape. The overstiching thread is white and also green raffia. The top of the cape has 'arrow' stitches and a pattern of coloured leaves alternating with the natural colour to form bands.
Type of item
1200 mm (Length), 390 mm (Width), 20 mm (Height)
Overall Dimensions - Folded
185 mm (Length), 390 mm (Width), 70 mm (Height)