Saying ‘I do’ while keeping traditions alive

Rizal Faisal

With the bridal scene seeing modern ideas and different wedding styles emerge, one family-owned boutique has carved out a niche to conserve and reintroduce authentic heritage materials.

Their concept is simple: develop with the community through charitable business.

As Koleksi Wardah owner Sue Abdullah explained, conserving and preserving the age-old heritage style is her main aim.

She collects various heritage items from several of her low-income family circle. Most of these community members have one or two heritage materials which can be gathered to form one beautiful object that makes up a complete set of the traditional style Pelaminan Puak.

Aside from working to conserve or preserve this heritage, she also helps the community, especially the low-income families, to earn from pieces that might have been otherwise forgotten or thrown away.

“I chose to grow, develop and earn well with the communities around me,” she said.

So why does she put such effort into collecting these pieces?

Many of the age-old traditional wedding items were influenced or mixed and matched from international ancient cultures that came into contact with Brunei. PHOTOS: HAZIMAH B ABD HAMID/RIZAL FAISAL
Sue Abdullah

As Sue explained, many are returning to their traditional roots but are unable to get authentic materials. This is because most were lost during World War II.

The material is something that Sue happened to come into contact with and she knew that she could make it work together with the contributor.

She also obtains them through recommendations of relatives or close friends. She either makes a copy of the material or buys it if the owner refuses to rent it.

However, as Sue shared, if owners refuse to part with their materials, she does not try to force it, noting that she has come across a few owners who hold on to their artefacts in remembering their ancestors.

As we all know, change is the only thing that is permanent, and bridal fittings have changed too. For easy transport and the like, bridal daises are now made from simpler material instead of the solid wood that was in the past years.

The covering, fine needle works as well as other materials, remains in its original form.

In her keeping are the Gata Berpenyelamat (two-tiered dais), Gata Biasa, Mingsun with gold trimmings, Panggau Duduk, Pelaminan Kedayan, Pelaminan Tutong and Pelaminan Lun Bawang (Murut). Each piece tells a history of Brunei Darussalam not only as a nation but its location in the ancient world.

Many of the pieces were influenced or mixed and matched from international ancient cultures that came into contact with Brunei.

As such, it is a great opportunity to appreciate the best of what our ancestors did in the past for us to ensure our future. The other plus is, future generations will be able to appreciate the best in craftsmanship that their forefathers left as each item showcases woodwork, basketry, metal-smithing, needlework as well as design and style.

One challenge that Sue faces in repairing the items is that the beads and sequins are no longer of the same material. These beads used to be made from glass and the sequins were of polished metals and thin cut glass. These are no longer found in the sewing supply shops these days.

To make her work a one-stop location for everything heritage, Sue also prepares the bridal costumes of each ethnicity of Brunei. In her collections are the seven ethnic attires that were often rented for the Berbedak, Berpacar ceremony and the occasional Bersanding.

All the costumes are glamourous even though the Kedayan, Dusun, Bisaya and Belait are all in black as the basic colour – each complete with head gear and the like.

She also has Iban, Melayu Muara and Cina Kianggeh attires.

As the pieces are genuine Brunei pieces – some dating back to the 1950’s – they are also exhibition items that can be showcased, be it for educational or informative purposes.

Supported by her family and close kin, Sue through her efforts to reintroduce and preserve the local heritage is developing her own personality in the market.

For the moment though, she is only catering to the Brunei-Muara District, while seeing how the market develops for potential expansion towards other districts.

“I do not work alone and I believe that working together is a shared blessing in the long term and, if it is not us, who should it be to reintroduce our own identity?” she added.