Weaving heritage into daily wear

Traditional patterns highlighted to the younger generation via everyday attire is what the brand has become known for.

THE ethnic heritage of Sabah is often seen in the state’s traditional clothing that are known for their beautiful and colourful designs and motifs.

However, these are becoming less commonly worn, especially among the younger generation.

To ensure these designs last across generations, 57-year-old craft entrepreneur Momin Angkap from the Rungus ethnic group is finding ways to preserve ancestral textiles.

He has focused his efforts on clothes made using linangkit, which is a traditional weaving technique.

Momin, who founded the Samodku brand and owns Samod Ku, Kudat Souvenir and Art Gallery, has created modern clothing accessories featuring Rungus patterns.

Momin exhibiting modern items like ties, scarves and hair ribbons featuring Rungus patterns. — Photos: BernamaMomin exhibiting modern items like ties, scarves and hair ribbons featuring Rungus patterns. — Photos: Bernama

These daily wear items include office ties, scarves and hair ribbons.

Momin describes these patterns and motifs as unique in the global indigenous art market, gaining Samodku products popularity in other countries, including South Korea and South Africa.

“I am very proud of our ancestors because they had no formal education, yet they were able to create beautiful designs that are beyond my own imagination.

“Unfortunately, we rarely see these patterned clothes as they are only worn during festive seasons,” said Momin, who added that this was the reason he incorporated heritage designs into everyday clothing accessories.

“This way, people will see them daily and they will remain part of our heritage for generations to come,” he told Bernama in Kudat, a northern district about 180km from Sabah’s capital of Kota Kinabalu.

Of the estimated 74,000 Rungus people who live in Sabah, the majority reside in this district.

The state is also home to 35 ethnic groups and 217 sub-ethnic groups.

Due to customer demand for Momin to incorporate traditional designs from various ethnicities, he created the Samodku brand that utilises 40 motifs and patterns in modern clothing accessories.

Momin, who hails from Kampung Pinawantai, recalled how he started his enterprise in 1992 by operating from his car.

It was only in 2016 when he was able to open a business outlet along Lorong Friendly Town, Kudat.

Today, he earns an average of RM7,000 per month while the business enjoys sales of up to RM20,000 per month.

Momin revealed that the majority of his sales are conducted through various online platforms and are influenced by festive periods.

Additionally, he runs a local collaborative where community members are involved in tasks such as sewing and marketing.

This, in turn, helps the local population generate income.

Momin hopes to attract more young people to join his business as he wants fresh ideas to expand operations and preserve Sabah’s ethnic heritage.

“Even if they come without skills, that’s fine as we can train together for mutual progress.

“Young people are often very skilled, especially with the internet, and can help with the online business that we started around 2003,” he said.

For Momin, earning a business income was important but what brought him greater satisfaction was seeing clothing accessories with Rungus and traditional Sabah designs being worn by people across the country, and the world over.

“I feel very proud when our senators and members of Parliament wear ties and accessories with Sabah ethnic patterns.

“Our gratitude also goes to Malaysian embassies and companies abroad for giving Sabah ethnic products as souvenirs, as this greatly helps small entrepreneurs like us and helps preserve our artistic heritage,” he shared.

Momin added that they were currently evaluating the production of other items, such as batik shirts and T-shirts.

However, he said this process would take time so as to allow the designing of quality products.

Those interested can contact Momin through the Facebook page Samod Ku, Kudat Souvenir & Art Gallery.

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