From one generation to the next

A true artist: Bangie holding the National Craft Icon 2024 award. Applauding her are (from left) Tiong, Anwar, Khairul Firdaus and Kraftangan Malaysia director-general Datuk Ainu Sham Ramli. — FAIHAN GHANI/ The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Master weaver Bangie Embol has been named the National Craft Icon 2024 for her significant contributions in keeping alive the traditional craft of Pua Kumbu, a handwoven Ibanese textile.

The 78-year-old artisan said she was honoured to receive the award.

“It motivates me to go on promoting and preserving the craft to pass down from one generation to another.

“I am excited and my spirits are high to continue weaving and to tell the stories of the Iban through the intricate designs of the Pua Kumbu,” said Bangie when met at the National Craft Complex here yesterday.

She had earlier received the National Craft Icon 2024 award from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The award is the highest recognition for the contribution of craft entrepreneurs and artistes in developing and empowering craft products in Malaysia.

Bangie learnt to weave from her mother and grandmother.

Today, she is a master of the traditional skill of making Pua Kumbu, right from the dyeing of the threads that produce the fade-resistant, accurate and vibrant colour tones to weaving the cloth.

The mother of five is known for producing traditional patterns inspired by her dreams. She also uses a combination of naturalist elements such as flora, fauna and figures to produce exquisite details and patterns for the world-renowned craft.

She has also passed down the skill to her children, grandchildren and her fellow villagers around the Rumah Gare longhouse in Sungai Kain, Kapit, Sarawak.

Bangie’s long list of accolades include the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Crafts Prize 1998 for Natural Dye Weaving, recognition as Sarawak Living Legend of Ikat Weaving by the Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Ministry in 2019, and the Hasanah Gold Thread Award for the Best Traditional Ikat category last year.

Earlier, at the launch of the National Craft Day 2024, Anwar emphasised the importance of preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of handmade crafts, and their role in spurring economic growth and generating tourism revenue.

He said handicrafts not only have the power to raise the dignity and lives of those who are less fortunate but can also be a pull factor for tourists.

“The ministry needs to promote what is available as part of tourism, such as local batik and songket products,” he said.

He said Malaysia must be more aggressive in the promotion of its tourism products and expedite the maintenance and upgrading of facilities to meet the influx of visitors to the country.

He said among the facilities in need of improvements were the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Penang International Airport, and Tawau Airport.

“These improvements can’t take three to four years, they need to be expedited. The airports in Tawau and Penang are already overcrowded as they were not built to accommodate a very high number of tourists,” he said, adding that immigration and customs services’ efficiency must also be improved speedily.

Also present at the event were Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and his deputy Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan.

National Craft Day 2024 brings together various types of local craft products and artisans at the National Craft Complex here. It is open daily from 10am to 10pm until March 4.

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