Weaving a tradition into modern products

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Intertwining a handful of dried reeds and turning them into exquisite hand-woven products, a collective of elderly weavers reflects the effort of hardworking citizens who not only secure financial independence for themselves and their families but also contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.

Many of these weavers, who are also Kampong Jerudong ‘B’ Village Consultative Council (MPK Jerudong ‘B’) entrepreneurs through the One Village, One Product (1K1P) initiative, have been using skills learnt from past generations and have since kept the traditional handicraft alive.

All of the woven products such as baskets, takiding, siraung, nyiru and other functional items used in daily life have been produced by this village’s entrepreneurs for more than 15 years and a majority of them are women.

“We are proud to watch the elderly entrepreneurs of this village overcome their struggles. They dare to rise with confidence and create several products with authenticity and aesthetic values and have received amazing response from the community,” said Acting Village Head of Kampong Jerudong ‘B’ Kamis bin Panjang.

One of the entrepreneurs is 68-year-old Hajah Raya binti Haji Hujan, who has more than 40 years of experience with handicraft products.

Woven products made by Kampong Jerudong ‘B’ Village Consultative Council (MPK Jerudong ‘B’) entrepreneurs through the One Village, One Product (1K1P) initiative. PHOTO: SYAZWANI HJ ROSLI

She said the materials for the woven handicrafts are sourced from selected bamboo such as buluh liat or buluh lempaki which are often found in dense jungles. These bamboos are the most suitable for making baskets and takiding.

Pandan Pantai, a type of pandan leaf usually found along the coast, is also one of the basic materials used to make the intricate handwoven bags in various sizes, shapes or patterns.

Hajah Raya said that completing a product would usually take them up to just a day but is subject to the size and shape as well as the complexity of the design pattern they are making.

“Through the years, we have aged along with our crafts but we try to adapt and innovate. Weaving patterns have also experienced changes, progress and development, just like us. We have produced more than 60 types of weaving patterns to date among which are mata punai, bunga rumput and buah pelajau.”

In this modern time, there is a need for these ageing entrepreneurs to adapt and apply their traditional skills towards innovating new functional designs in the products they make.

Hajah Raya touched on the selection of colours as an example. “Previously, most handicraft products had the natural colour of the material used, but things have changed. Consumers love either soft or vibrant colours depending on their tastes.”

She said they learnt the art of weaving from their mothers, grandmothers and other family members.

“Those were the most memorable moments of our lives where we sharpened our skills in handicrafts,” said Hajah Raya, who is also a retired trainer from the country’s Arts and Handicraft Training Centre.

Her fellow entrepreneur, Hajah Subuh binti Haji Pudin, also shares similar skills and said that the handicrafts created by the MPK have their own uniqueness that set them apart from others.

She added that today, weaving handicrafted products is not just limited to items like jewellery but other creative products as well, such as pencil cases, purses, cellphone or laptop bags and many others.

“These naturally sourced handicraft products need to be appreciated and its craft learnt by the younger generation so that it will not disappear from our tradition. They are the ones to become the successors of our heritage and culture. They need to learn to keep the tradition going. If not encouraged, these handicrafts and skills will diminish in no time,” said the 70-year-old entrepreneur.

Chairman of MPK Jerudong ‘B’ Awang Kamis said the response towards the village’s products has been encouraging, especially within the local community across the country.

He said they have also been receiving orders for their handicraft products for souvenirs.

These village entrepreneurs have had numerous opportunities to participate in several expos and sales, both in the country and abroad such as in Malaysia and Japan.

“It was indeed a great opportunity for us local entrepreneurs to showcase our creative products on an international platform. Such experiences can also help enhance and share our knowledge and skills,” he said.

The MPK Jerudong ‘B’ has plans to offer hands-on training through classes or workshops on weaving handicrafts for the village residents, especially the youth, to ensure that the spirit and true sense of the tradition is preserved.