by Nelson Dino

This work is based on Suluk indigenous motifs of the siyabit, a geometric (pasagi) patterned knit-weaving, usually made into a sash, shawl, head cloth, or tie belt. The siyabit is woven by Suluk women without any pre-pattern guide. The patterns are intrinsic to their souls, hearts and minds, and demonstrate their passion for all things nature and human, from which they are inspired. Suluk is one of the Coastal Indigenous Peoples (CIP) or Orang Asal Pesisir (OAP) of Sabah who mostly live in the coastal areas, islets of the east coast of Sabah.


The green, yellow, red, black and white colours used in the different components of this work are based on the colours that represent the passion of the Suluk.

Green symbolises their passion and enthusiasm towards nature, and its preservation, in beliefs of their ancestors’ origins.

Yellow symbolises their passion for portraying light. This is connected to Indira Suga, a sunlight deity and part of the ancient beliefs of their peoples’ common ancestors.

Red symbolises their passion of devotion towards protecting love and life. Especially for the love of each other, and the survival of the community.

Black symbolises their passion and strength in upholding the principle of co-existence of two dimensions of the world, that when there is darkness, beyond it is purity and innocence. This principle offers a sense of universal understanding.

White symbolises their passion to maintain the purity of the heart, in living in harmony with nature and all things created by God. It is their belief that to be a human being is to be be the secret of God.

Patterns and Motifs

The different characters depicted at the top of the work are from the Luntar Sug, or Luntar Suluk, a traditional writing system of the Suluk. Together, the characters read SIYABIT, the traditional weaving of the Suluk.

The chequered pattern symbolises small sea currents (laang). This further reflects the identity of the Suluk and their strong devotion to living in harmony with nature.

The multi-coloured stripes symbolise the communty’s colourfulness, reflecting the Suluk women’s passion for their indigenous motif patterns and pieces.

The seemingly floral pattern towards the base of the work symbolises outward-expanding sea ripples (lumbag). This particular motif represents the strong connection with nature, and is a work of art that embodies love, harmony and co-existence. It also signifies a sense of balance and equality in diversity between the static and dynamic emotion and intellect.

The zigzag pattern symbolises the dimension of the sea currents and waves (sug and alun) that reflects the fluidity of life. This pattern also symbolises equality and balance between creations, as portrayed by the wavelength (limbuak). This is particularly relevant to the co-existence of human beings. Whatever status one may have or belong to, one is always merely human.

Nelson Dino, or Neldy, is an artivist who mostly spends his time engaged in the literary arts of poetry, short stories, and novels.

Neldy has conducted extensive research into the significance of the Suluk, or Tau Sug, culture in the context of community relationships among peoples in Sabah. In particular, the iconology of Suluk Indigenous Motifs, as part of his Master’s thesis at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Neldy grew up in Sandakan, and believes that the communities of the east coast can, and should, be better represented in the Sabah narrative.