Sunday, May 27, 2012

Adding value to Sabah handicrafts


FOR an insight into life in Sabah during the bygone days, one only has to look at the traditional houses and hand-made relics being preserved at the Sabah Museum Heritage Village within the Ethno-botanical Gardens at the Sabah Museum Complex.

This is a good place to see not only the unique architecture of the houses built by the indigenious community but also the handicrafts they used as household items in the old days.

The community’s ingenuity in the choice and use of wood and other plant materials is evident in the construction of the houses.

I was informed the houses were built by a particular ethnic group to reflect its identity and ensure the cultural and historical authenticity of the houses.

To emphasise these aspects, the houses are furnished with items from yesteryear, including bamboo water containers, spoons and ladles, among many others.

Occasionally, activities such as handicraft-making demonstrations and sales, cultural dance performances and traditional games are held at the Village – usually during May to coincide with the state-level Harvest Festival Celebration.

The handicraft-makers, however, want more than just demonstrating their skills and selling their wares during this time. They are looking for steady income – and they also want to impart their skills to their children.

Simini Gondilo from Kampung Pelakat Sipitang, has been weaving baskets and winnowing trays since her teens.

“I used to follow my mother into the jungle to look for materials like the right kind of bamboo and vines to make baskets, containers and all sorts of household items,” recalled the 54-year-old of Murut-Dusun descent.

It was through helping her mother that she honed her handicraft-making skills.

However, she lamented that since such items were now produced by factories, making them, especially baskets, from natural materials was no longer popular.

“We may gradually lose interest in making things with our hands. But for me, I keep making baskets because sometimes, I do get to sell them. I have a child who is interested in weaving but you don’t make much money from it,” Simini noted.

The lack of demand means she cannot sell in bulk, so she has to do something else to make ends meet.

She hoped some handicraft dealers would come up with a reasonable offer, saying this might encourage the younger generation to get involved in the business.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Adding value to Sabah handicrafts
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