Penans handicraft steals spotlight in World Summit on Arts and Culture

Last update: 13/03/2019

By Norshazlina Nor Azman

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 (Bernama) -- Delegates from 60 participating countries for the 8th World Summit on Arts & Culture carry a tote bag called ‘Pihan’, an intricate and beautiful rattan handwoven bag made by the Penan community in Sarawak.

Today, on day three of the world summit, some of the delegates tried their hand at weaving the aboriginal community’s rattan handicraft in a workshop brought by Kraftangan Malaysia, with the experts flown from Baram, Sarawak.

Sarawak’s Kraftangan Malaysia (Kraftangan Malaysia Cawangan Sarawak) Director Azran Arip said through the workshop, delegates were not only able to experience the process of producing the finely made handicraft before their very eyes, but at the same time help to promote it around the world.

“As we all know, most of the tribes are located in the interior of Sarawak that are difficult to reach and with challenging logistics situation, thus it is actually hard for them to market their products even for the local market.

“Kraftangan Malaysia plays a big role in helping the Penans... we’ve run so many programmes in promoting and selling their products, not only at the domestic level but also internationally,” he told Bernama here today.

Azran said even some of the programmes were run on a small scale, but the impact it gives to the ethnic group is actually quite big and abundant, as they usually get orders and inquiries on the product continuously  even after the programme ends.

“Their patterns are intricate and the quality of their work is excellent... we hope they can compete with other aboriginal tribes in the production of hand craft products, thus improving their living standards,” he said.

Rattan weaver Bawih Tingang (she), 42, who came from Rumah Panjang Long Iman in Mulu Tutoh, Baram said the world summit is a great platform for them to boost and promote the tribe’s various rattan handicraft to the world.

With 30-year experience on rattan weaving, Bawih said she needs at least one week to complete an intricate design rattan handbag, which is then usually sold to foreign tourists who visit the town.

“When I was young, I made the bags for example ‘Bukui’, ‘Pihan’ and ‘Gaweng’ for daily personal use... but now there’s a lot of tourists in Sarawak and so many ways to sell it, so I can generate income from my talent,” she said.

One of the delegates, Director of New Zealand’s Pacifica Arts Centre Jarcinda Stowers said she’s really enjoying the weaving workshop and believes that the people in her country will love the Penan’s products that use unique and different techniques of weaving.

For Senior Manager International of Arts Council England, Nicola Smyth who shares the same enjoyable moment with Stowers, said the fingers run on the rattan pieces are really therapeutic and kind of addictive.

“It’s definitely difficult as I have huge fingers but it’s enjoyable and it’s really nice to do something creative and artsy where you can make a very lovely pattern by just using a rattan,” she said.

The 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture Kuala Lumpur 2019 is held at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre since Monday until tomorrow with the theme “Mobile Minds: Culture, Knowledge & Change”,  co-hosted by International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) and the National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN).

The summit is an opportunity for strengthening civil society, promoting collaboration between the non-profit and government sectors, and for equipping artistes, as well as allowing arts organisations and institutions to interact.