Weaving the future of traditional ‘bergerang’ mats

By Jude Toyat
@judetbpseeds

 

IN THE FACE OF modernisation and urbanisation, efforts to preserve traditional arts and crafts customarily passed down from generation to generation has never been more imperative as a means to retain the nation’s artistic heritage.

Despite her age, Ngot Bi, 83, is an active entrepreneur in the art of Sarawak heritage craft-making ‘Anyaman Pandan Tikar Bergerang’.

 

Ngot Bi

Ngot Bi

 

Her involvement in the art of weaving ‘bergerang’ mats began in 1999. Now 16 years into her craft, she has become widely known for her skills and her intricate work among locals and visitors from other states and countries.

The Borneo Post SEEDS interviewed her during the ‘Majlis Menandatangan dan Penyerahan Watikah Pelantikan Adiguru Kraf 2014 “Anyaman Tikar Bergerang” – Puan Ngot Bi’ which was held at Kampung Semera Ulu, Sadong Jaya on Jan 19.

A native of Kampung Semera Ulu, she explained that woven ‘bergerang’ mats saw daily use by the Malay community in Sarawak and was also a source of pride for them in the past. She learned the techniques of weaving from an expert from Kampung Tuie, Pusa.

 

Some coasters weaved from pandanus leaves by Ngot  and her team of trainees.

Drinks coasters weaved from dyed pandanus leaves by Ngot and her team of trainees.

A selection of baskets and weavings in the traditional style.

A selection of baskets and weavings.

 

“In the past, these woven ‘bergerang’ mats were made for a variety of uses including as a prayer mat, to welcome the birth of the firstborn, a mat laid out in a casket, a mat for the groom to sit on during a marriage ceremony, and as floor coverings during a particular event.”

Each ‘bergerang’ mat woven by Ngot Bi has its own value and identity with decorative motifs such as “mangoes, bunut seeds, swords, frogs, and bridges.”

 

A festive hat and a tikar.

A festive hat and a tikar.

A decorative item in bright colours.

A decorative item in bright colours.

 

Ngot was awarded the ‘Seal of Excellence for Products of Southeast Asia’ from UNESCO in 2005 and has often been invited to teach others to weave the ‘bergerang’ mats.

A mother of seven children, Ngot is currently passing the techniques of weaving to fellow villagers, especially the youth because she believes that, “this technique of weaving will become extinct if there is no attempt to introduce them to the new generation.”

She is so determined to pass on this craft that she has a weaving workshop set up at her own house in Kampung Semera Ulu which has been visited by various individuals including university students, local and international tourists, as well as art enthusiasts.

 

Ngot's team of apprentices.

Ngot’s team of apprentices.

Products weaved by Ngot Bi and her team of trainees using  the pandanus leaves (11)

Products weaved by Ngot Bi and her team of trainees using  the pandanus leaves (9)

Products weaved by Ngot Bi and her team of trainees using  the pandanus leaves (10)

 

She also invites those interested in the handicraft to visit her workshop where they can get reliable information about methods on how to produce the woven ‘bergerang’ mats as well as receive training and guidance from her.

She also sells the woven goods at her workshop, where it can cost between RM80 up to several hundreds depending on the woven items, which also include hats and bags.

“We also received orders from art lovers from within and outside Sarawak and thankfully it has managed to attract the public to come to this village and buy our products,” she added.

Her perseverance and conviction in producing high quality woven ‘bergerang’ mats made her products in high demand.
As a token of appreciation, Ngot was appointed the Adiguru Kraf 2014 for her skills and great contribution in building and developing the traditional craft.

 

Malaysian Craft Preservation Department director Ruslah Khalid (right) handing over a cheque of cash prize totalling RM5,000 to the newly appointed Adiguru Kraf Ngot Bi (second right) in the presence of Sadong Jaya assemblyman Aidel Lariwoo (second left) and State Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation director Azran Arip.

Malaysian Craft Preservation Department director Ruslah Khalid (right) handing a mock cheque of cash prize totalling RM5,000 to the newly appointed Adiguru Kraf Ngot Bi (second right) while Sadong Jaya assemblyman Aidel Lariwoo (second left) and State Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation director Azran Arip look on.

Malaysian Craft Preservation Department director Ruslah Khalid (sitting) signing the official appointment letter of Adiguru Kraf 2014 specially mean for Ngot Bi

 Ruslah Khalid (seated) signing the official appointment letter of recognising Ngot as Adiguru Kraf 2014.

 

She received the appointment from Malaysian Handicraft, an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture on Jan 19 in a ceremony officiated by Sadong Jaya assemblyman Aidel Lariwoo and state Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation director Azran Arip.

Adiguru Kraf is a title bestowed by the Malaysian government in recognition of a craftsman’s contributions to increasing the longevity of a traditional craft. The candidate has to meet certain criteria including possessing the knowledge and skills in their selected craft, playing an important role in the efforts to restore and preserve heritage craft, passing their skills on to others and thus ensuring the craft’s longevity, as well as being creative and innovative in their efforts to develop and improve the quality of their crafts.

Since the award was introduced in 1987, 51 people have received the award. Eighteen of them have passed away.

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