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Sabah, Sarawak craftsmen welcome PM’s call for local souvenirs at Bumiputera Economic Congress 2024

Publish date: Sun, 03 Mar 2024, 10:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — Often regarded as a “cottage industry,” the landscape for traditional handicrafts is set to transform as the Madani government takes significant steps to elevate the status of the country’s craftsmanship to ensure the continuous growth and success of the industry.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s call yesterday for all government departments, agencies, and government-linked companies to purchase souvenirs based on local artisanal products at the closing ceremony of the 2024 Bumiputera Economic Congress (KEB 2024) brought a sense of relief and joy to the industry.

Craftsmen in Sabah and Sarawak view this effort not only as a means to expand the market but also as a way to enhance the recognition and appreciation of the nation’s artistic heritage among both local and international communities.

In Sabah, 43-year-old weaver Emily Jeneble from Sook perceives this initiative not merely as a financial boost for craftsmen but as a catalyst to entice more individuals to explore what is usually regarded as a sideline enterprise.

“I greatly appreciate this announcement, and it inspires me to engage in this industry. Most importantly, my hope and aspiration are to build and empower new communities within the field in this state,” she told Bernama today.

Emily also shared a fond memory from October 2021 when the then Finance Minister, Senator Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, used a woven bamboo and cotton canvas bag adorned with her intricate weave patterns to carry the Budget 2022 documents to Parliament.

Beadcraft entrepreneur Hanna Porodong, 58, from Kudat, expressed that the government’s initiative undoubtedly opens up opportunities for more small-scale craft entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, thereby preserving their heritage in Sabah.

“This step allows us to rejuvenate our long-held cultural and ethnic heritage, perpetuating traditional motifs by introducing different types and numbers of products. Universiti Malaysia Sabah is also one of the agencies discussing collaboration to create souvenirs with us,” she added.

However, she appealed for the implementation of control mechanisms to ensure that only genuinely local handicrafts produced by local entrepreneurs are used for such purposes, rather than imported items.

In Sarawak, Alice Umbang, a 51-year-old weaver, said that local crafts would gain global recognition if utilised as corporate gifts, especially since the state frequently hosts international events.

Bernama “Local crafts not only possess artistic, heritage, cultural, and identity values but are also of high quality, mostly handcrafted rather than machine-made, ensuring their quality,” she explained.

According to beadcraft entrepreneur Monica Geres, 52, each crafted item, such as beads placed on shoulders known as ‘Tangu’ in the Iban language, represents one of the traditional accessories of the Iban community, with unique meanings and patterns based on different parts.

“Therefore, if these craft products are used as souvenirs, especially by outsiders, they will be excited because they not only have an aesthetic value but also carry their own cultural and traditional narratives. Foreigners are always keen to learn more about our culture,” she told Bernama.

For George Allan, 48, a craftsman who makes sape, a traditional musical instrument of the Orang Ulu community, local handicrafts are considered premium gifts due to their significant value and suitability as souvenirs. — Bernama

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