KUCHING: The workmanship of the Murum Penan artisans attracted a favourable number of customers at the recent Sarawak Handicraft Festival, earning them around RM10,000 in handicraft sales.
Festival goers were drawn to the booth displaying crafts of the Murum Penans like gawung (rattan basket), ba’rang (water bottle carrier), bo’rat (rattan mat) and ba’sah (rattan bangles) during the 10-day event at the Kuching Waterfront.
Sarawak Energy, in a joint effort with the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC), assisted the artisans in terms of logistic arrangements by providing them with an opportunity to market their products and exposure to the handicraft industry.
Artisans Kong Kupak, Unyang Gasing, Roska Asan, Medlin Lagu, Meron Kulleh and Bonny Sanai said that they felt more confident in their craft making skills following the good response and feedback they received at the festival.
“This is the fourth outing for the Penan artisans from Murum to showcase their craft making, promote their handicrafts and gather more knowledge and ideas from other players in the craft industry,” said Sarawak Energy’s senior manager of Social Investment and Community Development Joanne Tan in a press release.
“They are already master craftsmen, but we want to take that to the next level by improving the marketability of their products to improve the socio-economic opportunities of the community. Aside from exposing them to new design concepts available in the market, their exposure to events such as this festival serve as an ideal platform for them to network and be around other artisans.”
Culture and heritage is one of Sarawak Energy’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) pillars, and the corporation has rolled out a comprehensive plan to develop the handicraft skills and products of the Penans at Murum to provide them with an alternative livelihood plan.
The other exhibitions participated by the Murum Penans includes the Festival Kraft Sarawak held in Miri and Bintulu in 2015 and this year’s National Craft Day in Kuala Lumpur.
Before the exhibitions, they underwent structured training programmes organised by Sarawak Energy to diversify and improve the quality of their handcrafted products like rattan weaving, rattan products sewing techniques and proper finishing techniques on parang (machete) making.
A number of training workshops were organised since 2015 at Long Wat and Long Malim, in partnership with Sarawak Craft Council (SCC) and MHDC Sarawak Branch.
As a continuation of the training, Sarawak Energy is currently partnering with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts to develop value-added craft products with contemporary designs that will be commercially-viable.
This forms part of the Sarawak Energy-community partnership programme to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the resettled community and the preservation of their heritage for the generations to come.