Monday, February 27, 2012

Call to revamp Sarawak's handicraft industry

MIRI: Artisans and retailers face a bleak future unless the local handicraft industry can organise and modernise to meet buyers’ demands while preserving the integrity of local handicrafts.

Although the industry is currently stable, an increasing portion of Sarawak’s unique reservoir of traditional handicraft skills and knowledge is being lost forever as older artisans pass away with no one to take their place or pass their expertise to, secretary of the Miri Handicraft Centre Alice Janting told the Borneo Post Adventure Team (BAT) yesterday.

“Young people are not interested in taking up handicrafts, perhaps because they don’t feel inspired by it,¨ she said, adding that the work was very labour intensive and required much patience and focus.

A flood of cheap but poor quality imports from Indonesia compounds the problem of limited skilled labour locally.

“Unfortunately, the market is very price-driven,” said Alice, who co-owns Teng Bumicrafts No. 12 which she has operated with her husband at the Miri Handicraft Centre for the past seven years.

She explained that many buyers do not understand the amount of time and effort which goes into producing iconic Sarawakian craftwork such as the Iban’s pua kumbu and the Orang Ulu’s intricate bead necklaces.

Local artisans also tend to underprice their work, she said.

The prices demanded by the market and charged by local artisans do not commensurate with the quality of local crafts which tend to be much better than similar imports, she pointed out.

Alice, who is a skilled beadworker, suggested that the government could look at regulating imports of handicrafts to protect the integrity of local craftwork.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Call to revamp Sarawak's handicraft industry

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