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Murum Penan Handicraft New Designs Unveiled

KUCHING, 11TH DECEMBER 2017, MONDAY:  The fine workmanship of the Murum Penan handicraft will find an expanded market with new and contemporary designs.

The designs are the outcome of a partnership between the Murum Penan weaving community, Sarawak Energy and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) which begun in 2016 as an effort to diversify and elevate the commercial viability of the already well received traditional handicraft of the community to expand their sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Marking this milestone, an event to launch and showcase this new range of designs was held today at Menara Sarawak Energy in the presence of invited guests comprising handicraft enthusiasts and representatives of organisations involved in the development of crafts from indigenous communities in Sarawak.

Hand woven by skilled Murum Penan artisans, rattan products comprising tote bags, clutch purses, men’s briefcases, coasters, platters, lampshades, headbands, bracelets and seminar bags featuring contemporary accents and accessories were on display for sale. Proceeds from the sale of these products go back to the community.

Officiating at the event was Aisah Eden, Sarawak Energy Executive Vice President for Corporate Services. Also present were James Ung (翁新光), Chief Executive Officer for SEB Power; Jiwari Abdullah, Assistant General Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility and Joanne Tan (陈楚燕), Senior Manager for Social Investment and Community Development.

Representing UNIMAS were Professor Dr Narayanan N. Kulathu Ramaiyer, Director for the Institute of Social Informatics and Technological Innovations and Associate Professor Dr. June Ngo Siok Kheng, Department of Design Technology Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts.

In her speech, Aisah said, “Sarawak Energy embarked on this initiative to enhance commercial viability of these authentic handicrafts, expanding their market and providing for a more sustainable form of economy for the Murum Penan community.

“As part of our commitment to corporate social responsibility, our prime objective was to work together with these relocated communities on sustainable livelihood programmes to ensure that their standard of living after re-relocation would be raised.”

Sarawak Energy’s initiatives with the Murum Penan community go back to the early years before their relocation in 2013 to the resettlement at Tegulang and Metalun with the construction of the Murum Hydroelectric Plant.

Other than handicraft development, Sarawak Energy has helped set up schools and rolled out its flagship literacy programme which have since enabled some 400 Penan adults to read and write. The company also contributes to the Bakun Charitable Trust to support the education needs of the Penans in Belaga as well as the resettled community.

In addition, it also has the Youth Development programme in partnership with the Society for the Advancement of Women and the Family Sarawak and the extension of the “Literacy for Social Inclusion” programme carried out together with the Dyslexia Association of Sarawak.

Currently, there are about 70 artisans who are actively producing handicrafts in the Tegulang resettlement, including beadwork.

A number of training workshops were organised at Long Wat and Long Malim to broaden their range of products, in partnerships with Sarawak Craft Council and Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation Sarawak Branch since 2014.

Furthermore, the artisans were given the exposure to promote their crafts and showcase their skills at both international and national platforms. These included the Festival Kraft Sarawak held in Miri and Bintulu in 2015, 2016 and 2017 National Craft Day in Kuala Lumpur and recently, at the 2017 Rainforest World Music Festival.

Sarawak Energy Executive Vice President for Corporate Services Aisah Eden (centre) along with Assistant General Manager of CSR Jiwari Abdullah (right), Chief Executive Officer of SEB Power James Ung (back row; right), UNIMAS Professor Dr Narayanan N. Kulathu Ramaiyer (back row; second right), Sarawak Energy Senior Manager for Social Investment and Community Development Joanne Tan (back row; third right), UNIMAS Associate Professor Dr. June Ngo Siok Kheng (back row; fourth right) and the Murum Penan artisans at the unveiling of the contemporary designs.

Sarawak Energy Executive Vice President for Corporate Services Aisah Eden (right) along with the Murum Penan artisans who displayed their weaving skills at the unveiling of a new range of contemporary designed handicrafts at Menara Sarawak Energy.  Standing in the back row are (from right) Sarawak Energy Assistant General Manager of CSR Jiwari Abdullah (left), Senior Manager for Social Investment and Community Development Joanne Tan, UNIMAS Associate Professor Dr. June Ngo Siok Kheng and UNIMAS Professor Dr Narayanan N. Kulathu Ramaiyer.

New designs of products hand woven by the Murum Penan artisans being snapped up at the event.