By JOHN TIONG
MALAYSIA -SARAWAK handicraft can bring RM50 million to the State's coffers if properly promoted, said Mohd Latif Dirun, director of Kraftangan Malaysia, Sarawak, at the recent Promosi Kraf Malaysia at the Kuching Waterfront.
He said Kraftangan Malaysia, Sarawak is committed to preserving local handicraft heritage and has been actively helping craftsmen market their products, discover and train new talents as well as conduct research on improving their works.
It provides financial assistance to set up workshops and a monthly allowance for master craftsmen so that they can pass their skills to the younger generation. "Some of the allocations for setting up workshops were as much as RM150,000 each," said Mohd Latif.
Sales figures of the annual Promosi Kraf Malaysia showed a vast improvement of RM516,675 in 2006 from a paltry RM192,219 in 2005. It totalled RM430,326 last year.
This was mainly due to more creative promotion approaches adopted by the State, Mohd Latif said.
This year's promotion coincided with the Sarawak Regatta (Aug 1-3) and lasted till Aug 10. It featured 70 stalls including 41 from Sarawak, six from Sabah, 14 from Kelantan and one from Malacca.
There were cultural performances as well as handicraft exhibitions of pottery, woven products and models of vessels used by the various ethnic groups.
There were weavers eager to demonstrate the making of traditional fabrics such as pua kumbu. Among the items on sale were wood carvings done on berlian driftwood by Yusof Rasal of Lundu. The huge carvings of eagles, crocodiles and fish make excellent seats for use in the garden or living room.
Orang ulu bead necklaces, earrings and baby carriers designed by Baram-born Roslind Long Lah were also on sale. Another store sold parang, krises and knives made by Hipni Anggas from Kampung Lintang Jaie, Asajaya.
Then there was silver and gold embroidery such as Kelingkam of the Malays and basketry works of the various ethnic groups such as Ibans, Penans and Melanaus.
Spotted among the guests on the first day of the craft sales was Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib.