Woven To Perfection

Building the potential in handicraft making among Penans in Murum

KUCHING, 31th July 2014, THURSDAY: A good number of handicrafts produced by the Penans in Murum have made its way around the world ever since Sarawak Energy stepped in to support the community’s artistry skills.

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the resettled community affected by the Murum HEP, Sarawak Energy has taken the initiative through the CSR team’s active engagement to build the community’s potential in handicraft-making.

Sarawak Energy has recently started purchasing a number of fine crafts and offering them as exclusive gifts for the company's corporate guests. Most recently, these souvenirs were given to guests from Oman.

Though the production is still on a small scale; this initiative provides an opportunity for the Penans to produce handicrafts that meet the market’s expectation and at the same time, earn extra income from the trade.

This encouragement has led to the natives being more active in handicraft making. Other than weaving baskets, they are also skilled at beading, machete making and even carving the blowpipe and the musical instrument Sape among others.

Sarawak Energy realised the potential of these skilled craftsmen of the resettled community during a community programme jointly conducted with a non-governmental organisation in Belaga last year. One little basket was all it took to show that the

Penan community in Murum possess the artistry to produce handicrafts that is to be admired by many.

The Penan basket or locally known as “Belanyat ” displaying an intricate woven artwork, convinced Sarawak Energy to encourage handicraft making among the resettled community as part of its social investment programme. The soft weaving of the bemban -similar to the rattan- is also often chequered with a natural dye to give the basket some tribal design, adding to its authenticity.

CSR Manager for Social Investment Joanne Tan (陈楚燕)said the craftwork of the Penans were simply remarkable and worthy of attention.

“Their work is very fine as proven in their weaving and when they begin, the designs come from within. Best of all, no two handmade baskets are the same for the maker never plans the designs beforehand but does it spontaneously,

“It would be a pity to see these skills go unnoticed. More so, by Sarawak Energy supporting the craft activities of the community, we are also preserving the traditions and culture by encouraging the young ones to learn the trade from the older generation,” she said.

Tan said Sarawak Energy wants to take this initiative a step further by engaging researchers in design from a local university on how to improve these handicrafts and help the community come up with value added traditional and contemporary designed products.

She said all this is part of the company’s sustainable development plan for the resettled community as well as to provide them another opportunity of livelihood.

Villager Limou Beti from Long Wat displaying her work of art

One of the lady craftsmen weaving a basket

Colourful beadwork to be admired

Handicrafts comprising various types of baskets and blowpipes from the Penan community in Murum