Orang Ulu Mat Weavers Break Guinness World Record For Longest Woven Rug/Mat In The World

BINTULU, 16th MAY 2016, MONDAY: Orang Ulu women weavers from Bakun, Murum and Baram communities have been proclaimed the new title holder of the Guinness World Record for weaving the longest woven mat/rug in the world.

The determination displayed by this group of women did Sarawak and Malaysia proud when they weaved and combined a rattan mat to a length of 1128.272 metres overtaking the previous record held by Sweden for having the longest rug measuring at 797.51m long.

Rishi Nath, an adjudicator from the Guinness World Record organisation officially declared the record breaking attempt a success during the grand finale held at the Bakun Resettlement Scheme, Sungai Asap here on Monday.  There to also witness this achievement were Dato Sri Rohani Abdul Karim, Minister for Women, Family and Community, Chukpai Ugon, Murum State Assemblyman, Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit,  Sarawak Energy Group Chief Executive Officer, Aisah Eden, Sarawak Energy Executive Vice President for Corporate Services, Datin Sri Debong Anyie, Peng Doh Belaga Chairman, community leaders and residents of Sungai Asap and from nearby villages as well as weavers and supporters from Murum and Baram. 

Organised by Belaga’s women NGO, Peng Doh Belaga and sponsored by Sarawak Energy, the attempt unites weavers from the three communities to weave the rattan mat, as a symbol of a shared heritage meant to be preserved for the younger and future generation of the Orang Ulus.  Partner sponsors include Dayak Cultural Foundation, Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat and Kementerian Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia.

Since January this year, over 400 women weavers from the different communities have been weaving sections of the mat in their respective longhouses with their efforts recorded in a documentary titled “Mat Weavers Tale” in parallel with the Guinness World Record attempt.

The idea of bringing together the communities from Sg. Asap, Murum and Baram through mat weaving came about after Peng Doh’s involvement in the communities’ handicraft training which includes weaving. Orang Ulu communities are famous for their weaving skills and the Mat Weavers Tale documentary shares and archive their progress, aspirations, expectations, culture and heritage. 

Filming began in February to record the tremendous effort of the communities in weaving the longest mat, the changes and development experienced by the communities, and at the same time preserving their rich culture and heritage. The three part series documentary, which is expected to come on air this year, depicting the tenacity of the weavers from the three communities is also being produced to ensure this significant milestone of the Orang Ulu communities, is recorded for posterity. 

The 400 weavers are from five sub-ethnic groups of the Orang Ulu namely Kayan, Kenyah, Buket, Penan and Lahanan and spent five months weaving different sections of the mat and finally joined these sections together at Sungai Asap. The initiative also saw the other villagers from the involved communities assisting in terms of harvesting, stripping and transporting the rattan. 

In addition, the attempt also showcases their craftsmanship and artistic talent on a global platform. The intricate designs woven into the mat represents the heritage and tenacity of the Orang Ulu women and their contribution to their communities and also the socio-economy of the state. 

In his speech, Torstein lauded the determination shown by the women weavers in wanting to leave a cultural footprint of great importance to the Orang Ulu community. 

"A mat is woven with many different strands that come together in a pattern that is both functional and beautiful. This is exactly what this effort was like – it is complicated, it is challenging and ultimately it is beautiful. I believe it has reawakened an interest in the wonderful art of mat weaving of the Orang Ulu so that this wonderful heritage lives on.

“Sarawak Energy is delighted to be a part of this achievement which tells a story of the rich cultural heritage of the Orang Ulu community and seeks to encourage the craft-making skills for posterity. As a responsible corporate citizen, helping the communities preserve their culture and heritage is part of the key areas we are giving active attention to in order to develop long term, sustainable partnerships which will meet real community needs, particularly to those communities affected by our projects direct or indirectly,” he said. 

Sarawak Energy through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Department initiated a number of sustainable social investment programmes which focuses on preservation of cultural and heritage of its project affected communities such as organising handicraft making courses, sape album production, sponsoring Murum Penan Festival and buying their handicraft products for corporate souvenirs.  

Aside from this, Sarawak Energy also advocates supporting education efforts and programmes which includes its award winning Murum Penan Literacy Programme which enabled some 400 Penan adults undertake basic reading, writing and arithmetic as part of their transition into mainstream development. This programme has expanded to stage three which encompasses personal development, hygiene, nutrition and health, essential living skills such as simple accounting, home economy and parenting workshops. Following its success, it has now been extended to the Penans in Baram. 

Sarawak Energy also worked together with the Ministry of Education in the setting up two primary schools in Tegulang and Metalun Resettlements and partnered with the Bakun Charitable Trust to provide further education support for Penan communities in the Belaga district through a special education fund worth RM200,000 annually, parked under the Bakun Charitable Trust to support the particular education needs of the Penans. 

Peng Doh Belaga Chairman Datin Sri Debong Anyie holds up the Guinness World Record certificate which
acknowledges the achievement of Orang Ulu women in setting a new record for weaving the longest mat in the world
as (from left) Minister for Women, Family and Community Dato Sri Rohani Abdul Karim, Sarawak Energy Group Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit and others look on.

Measuring the longest mat in the world.

A total of 400 women weavers from the Orang Ulu rural communities in Bakun, Murum and Baram came together to weave the longest mat in the world.

Orang Ulu women weavers successfully set a new record for weaving the longest mat in the world.

Working together in unity to set a new world record.