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SISKA FOREST PLANTS TRANSFORMED INTO BEAUTIFUL NOKEN FROM THE ARFAK MOUNTAINS
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SISKA FOREST PLANTS TRANSFORMED INTO BEAUTIFUL NOKEN FROM THE ARFAK MOUNTAINS

 

Siska is the local name coined by the Sougb tribe in the Arfak Mountains. The Siska plant or Serenduk Bulu Clidemia hirta develops and grows in the Arfak forest. Maybe some people think of this plant as a wild plant or grass which has no artistic or economic value. But who would have thought that from the Siska plant, the local people of the Arfak Mountains transformed it into a beautiful noken with various sizes.

 

 

That afternoon on Sunday, the weather was cloudy and the wind was light, the Bentar Papua team visited Mama Maria Inden at her Thousand Foot house (traditional house of the Arfak tribe). Mama Maria was sitting relaxed while knitting half of the unfinished noken. "If you don't go to the garden on Sunday, you can make a noken," said Mama Maria warmly when she started a conversation with us. Mama Maria is one of the noken knitters from Udohotmah preparation village, Sururey District. The ability to knit noken does not come down biologically from her parents, but rather experience led Mama Maria to be able to knit noken. "Mama just watch me make it, then I'll learn for myself," he concluded.

According to Mama, the Siska plant can be taken and used as thread to make noken when it is old. The characteristics of this plant being old are seeing the dense leaf growth and increasing tree height. The Siska plant can be cut at the stem or can also be removed from the roots, but Mama Maria usually only cuts the stem as needed to make thread. "Just cut it so it can grow again, if you remove it from the roots it will die," he said. The reason why Mama Maria chose the Siska stem cutting method was to make it easier the acceleration of growth of this plant, because according to him, getting the Siska plant is a little difficult and it grows a lot in the forest, there are also several trees planted in his yard. After the stem of this plant is cut, the outer (rough) skin is cleaned using a knife and the fine fibers attached to the Siska stem are left behind. Siska stems that have been removed from the rough skin are dried in the sun, however, not under the hot sun but dried next to a fire, for a maximum duration of 2-3 days until the stems are dry and fine fibers remain which are the main material or noken yarn.

The dried Siska stems are then broken to the size according to the maker's wishes. Mama Maria herself usually breaks Sika stems at around 5 to 10 cm, she continued, "It doesn't have to be long, it will break easily." The fine fibers contained in this wooden stick will be taken and rolled over the thigh. There is a sensation that Mama Maria feels when rolling fine fibers, namely pain in the skin of her thighs and sometimes blisters. "Thighs hurt but that's normal," answered Mama Maria softly. The finished thread will be connected with fine fiber and then rolled to form a roll. According to Mama Maria, to get a large spool or long thread requires regular work. "Mama only makes this when she finishes working in the garden," he said. The finished thread is then dyed naturally using the Mangoi plant (as local residents call the Sougb tribe) to produce a purple color. Mangoi fruit is boiled and then pounded until it produces coarse and slightly watery fibers which can be colored in several parts of the thread as desired. "Take a little on your hand (thumb and index finger) then rub it on the thread," explained Mama Maria.

 

 

The unique thing about making this noken is that it doesn't use needles as usual but is woven by hand. Apart from that, you need help with both feet to weave, said Mama Maria, "You have to put your feet into the noken before you can weave." The aim of using the help of the foot is to tighten the noken pattern so that it is easier to weave. A small or medium sized noken usually takes approximately 1 month using one large Siska tree, while for a large sized noken that contains firewood and garden produce it takes 3 months. "The big noken uses lots of trees," he explained. If a small sized noken only requires one Siska tree, then a large sized noken requires around 3-4 Siska trees. The noken produced by Mama Maria will be sold and priced at around Rp. 300,000 (three hundred thousand rupiah) – 1,000,000 (one million rupiah). "Selling here, in the city too," said Mama Maria. Even though she doesn't promise the results she will get from knitting noken, according to this middle-aged woman, at least knitting noken can help her family's economy, and for her, knitting noken has become a habit to fill her leisure time at home when work in the garden is finished.

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