Murum Penan Artisans Promote Craft In Kuala Lumpur

Kuching, Thursday, 24th March 2016: The Penan artisans from Murum Resettlement Scheme received further exposure on handicraft entrepreneurship at the National Craft Day exhibition held at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex recently. They were among the 500 entrepreneurs and artisans who participated in the exhibition with the objective of exploring opportunities to expand their business locally and to the international market.  Visitors to the exhibition booths include entrepreneurs, craft enthusiasts and tourists from Europe and the United States and also locals.

Four artisans from Long Wat and Long Malim were sponsored by Sarawak Energy to take part in the exhibition which was held from February 24 to March 6. They were Carrick Ulie and Bonny Sanai from Long Wat and Meragung Lawai and Unyang Gasing from Long Malim, Tegulang.

In an interview with a national news agency, Meragung said, “The experience participating in the event was truly an eye-opener and I hope to pass on these traditional handicraft skills to the younger generation in my community.”
Other than providing a platform to showcase their fine skilled crafts, the Penan artisans were given the exposure to enhance their marketing skills.  This was the third handicraft exhibition participated by Penan artisans from Murum since last year.

Prior to the exhibitions, they underwent structured training programmes organised by Sarawak Energy to diversify and improve the quality of their handcrafted products by exposure to new ideas and design concepts on rattan weaving, the art of sewing as well as proper finishing techniques on parang (machete) making.  A number of workshops were held last year at Long Wat and Long Malim, in partnership with Sarawak Craft Council (SCC) and Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC), Sarawak Branch.

The products from the workshops were then showcased at the Festival Kraft Sarawak held in Miri and Bintulu last year, and this year’s National Craft Day in Kuala Lumpur. The events gave the platform to highlight the artisans’ talent, to gain exposure to the entrepreneurial environment and learn to promote and sell their products. The artisans also had the opportunity to learn and exchange experience with artisans from various communities.  

Through integrated training and exposure, it is hoped that the Penans will produce commercially viable handicrafts for an extended market. The Penans are known for their skills in rattan weaving to produce mats and baskets among others, beading, parang (machete) making and also blowpipe and musical instrument, the Sape.

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 in 2014. As a start, Sarawak Energy purchased a number of these authentic crafts offering them as souvenirs for the company's corporate guests. To-date, the utility has purchased over 1,500 units of handicraft products from the Penan artisans which promotes the preservation of culture and heritage whilst improving their household income.

Commenting on the program, Sarawak Energy’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Services, Aisah Eden said, “This is part of Sarawak Energy’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, to raise living standards and at the same time, preserve the cultural heritage of the communities that we work with.  Through this program, we help them to promote their handicraft skills as an option to generate income. We help them become more entrepreneurial. Our commitment is to continuously support their progress by working together with them based on the principles of sustainability.”

“As a continuation of the training, Sarawak Energy is also partnering with designers and researchers from Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) to develop value-added craft products with contemporary designs that will be commercially-viable,” added Aisah.

National Craft Day 2016 was officiated by the Prime Minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and accompanied by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

The Murum Penan booth received good response from local and foreign visitors, including members of the media who took opportunity to interview the artisans.

Present to show support at the exhibition were Sarawak Energy’s Head of CSR, Jiwari Abdullah and Senior Manager I, Social Investment and Community Development Joanne Tan Cho Yian.

Other than the exposure on handicraft entrepreneurship, Sarawak Energy also sponsored the production of a sape album from the master sape musicians of Belaga resettled communities, to ensure the Penan Belaga’s classical music lives on.  

Sarawak Energy, through its CSR initiatives has given continuous support to the resettled communities in Murum to facilitate their transition into the mainstream development and at the same time preserving their culture and heritage.  In education, the Penan children in Murum are now receiving formal education through Sarawak Energy’s collaboration with the Department of Education in the setting up of two primary schools in Tegulang and Metalun Resettlement Areas. Last year, Sarawak Energy announced an education fund of RM200,000 mainly for the Penan communities in Belaga which also benefits communities at the Murum Resettlement scheme.  Sarawak Energy’s award-winning Murum Penan Literacy Programme has enabled over 300 adults to undertake basic reading, writing and arithmetic. The literacy project which is now at an advanced stage, is implemented in collaboration with Society for the Advancement of Women and the Family Sarawak (SAWF).  The program has received national and international recognition; winning “Excellence in Provision of Literacy and Education Award (Gold) at the 7th Annual Global CSR Summit and Awards 2015 in Yogjakarta, Indonesia in 2015 and CSR Excellence Award in the Sin Chew Business Excellence Award for its CSR initiatives in 2014.

Penan artisans Meragung (3rd right) , Unyang (4th right), Bonny (5th right) in a group photo together with Head of CSR Jiwari Abdullah (4th left), Carrick (3rd left) , Senior Manager 1 of Social Investment and Community Development Joanne (2nd left) and other Sarawak Energy’s CSR team members at the exhibition

Fine handicrafts of the Murum Penan artisans displayed at the exhibition. Meragung (centre) and Sarawak Energy’s Community Relations Officer Florida Havit explaining and promoting Penan crafts to a tourist.

A national news agency interviewing Meragung (left)

Carrick keeps track of his sales performance. /Carrick updating his sales in his log book

A tourist trying out a rattan bangle while listening to Meragung’s explanation.

Unyang (right) Penan artisan from Long Malim interacting with young visitors to the booth.

The artisans from Long Malim, Meragung (left) and Unyang (right) observing crafts made by the Orang Asli.