Craft entrepreneur keeps Rungus traditional patterns alive through fashion accessories

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Momin showing ties featuring patterns from the Rungus community. – Bernama photo

KUDAT (May 15): The traditional patterns and ethnic heritage of Sabah, known for their beautiful and colourful designs and motifs, are often seen in traditional clothing. However, they are becoming less commonly worn, especially among the younger generation.

Therefore, a 57-year-old craft entrepreneur, Momin Angkap, from the Rungus ethnic group here, is determined to find ways to ensure that the patterns on clothing inherited from his ancestors – particularly those created using the linangkit art, a traditional weaving technique of the Sabah community – are preserved across generations.

To achieve this, Momin, who is also the owner of Kudat Souvenir and Art Gallery, has created modern clothing accessories, such as ties, scarves and hair ribbons, featuring patterns from the Rungus community here. These products have gained popularity even abroad, including in South Korea and South Africa.

“These Rungus patterns and motifs are unique. I am very proud of our ancestors, because they had no formal education, yet they were able to create beautiful designs that are beyond my own imagination. Unfortunately, these patterned clothes are only worn during festive seasons, so we rarely see them.

“So, I want to highlight these traditional patterns so that people, especially the younger generation, recognise them. That’s why I incorporate these patterns into everyday clothing accessories. This way, people will see them daily, and they will remain part of our heritage for generations to come,” he told Bernama.

Kudat is a district located in the northern part of Sabah, approximately 180 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, with the majority of the Rungus ethnic group residing here. Currently, an estimated 74,000 Rungus people live in Sabah. The state is also home to 35 ethnic groups and 217 sub-ethnic groups.

Due to customer demand for Momin to incorporate traditional patterns from various ethnicities, under the ‘Samod Ku’ brand, he now has 40 patterns applied to modern clothing accessories.

Momin, who hails from Kampung Pinawantai, here, said that he started his business on a small scale in 1992, operating from his car, and finally had an outlet in Friendly Town since 2016.

Earning an average of RM7,000 per month, with sales reaching up to RM20,000 per month, he said that the majority of his sales are conducted online through various platforms, including Shopee, though it depends on the season, such as during festive periods.

To make it even more interesting, he runs it in collaboration with the local community, involving them in tasks such as sewing and marketing the products. This, in turn, helps the local population generate income.

Momin also hopes to attract more young people to join his business, as he wants fresh ideas and approaches to expand the business and preserve ethnic heritage in Sabah.

“We welcome many young people to join us. Even if they come without skills, that’s fine; we can train together for mutual progress. Young people are often very skilled, especially with the internet, and can help with the online business that we started around 2003,” he said.

He said that earning an income through the business is certainly important, but what brings greater satisfaction is seeing clothing accessories with Rungus patterns and traditional Sabah designs being worn by people across the country, and the world over.

“I feel very proud when our senators and members of Parliament wear ties and accessories with traditional Sabah ethnic patterns in Parliament. It’s gratifying to see our respectable members supporting our efforts to preserve these traditional designs.

“Our deepest gratitude goes to the Malaysian embassies and our companies abroad for using Sabah ethnic products as souvenirs in those countries. This greatly helps small entrepreneurs like us and allows us to preserve our artistic heritage together,” he said.

Momin added that they are currently evaluating the production of other items, including batik shirts and T-shirts, with traditional Sabah patterns. However, this requires some time to design high-value and quality products.

Those interested can contact him at 019-490 5359 or through the Facebook page Samod Ku, Kudat Souvenir & Art Gallery. Momin’s products are also available on Shopee at https://my.shp.ee/ak6gzjL. – Bernama