Society Atelier Sarawak president Edric Ong (centre left) presenting a bouquet to Nancy at the 4th Annual Mad Hatters Party. Photo: Ghazali Bujang

KUCHING: Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri has encouraged emerging Sarawakian designers and talents to get involved at the international level in order to place Sarawak on the global stage.

Speaking to reporters after officiating at the 4th Annual Mad Hatters Party organised by Society Atelier Sarawak (SAS) at Dewan Sri Bunga Rampai on Saturday night (Oct 24), she pointed out the unity among the various ethnic groups of Sarawak as they gathered with the common desire of inspiring new collectors and designers.

“The old and new designers come together so there is continuity. This talent will always be continuous, and we in the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) will drive this, especially in terms of promoting what is available,” she said.

“We see the resources of Sarawak utilised during this event and I hope this is one way that our people can generate income by monetising the resources we have here,” she added.

Nancy speaking to reporters after officiating at the 4th Annual Mad Hatters Party.

Earlier in her speech, she expressed confidence that with the talents of local designers such as those featured at the Mad Hatters Party, Sarawak will become another stylish fashion tourism destination, standing proud with the likes of Paris, New York, London, and Milan.

“It is my hope to also see that today’s event, which includes the fashion show and the craft bazaar earlier today, becomes a pulling factor that can attract people, not just within our beloved country but from around the world,” she said.

Nancy said that pushing the boundaries of fashion and heritage through creative events such as the Mad Hatters Party can create new ways of looking at our forefathers’ creativity.

She said one of the ways of highlighting Sarawak’s rich cultural diversity was through the traditional headgear of its various ethnic groups such as the Iban ketapu tunjang, the intricate beadwork of the Orang Ulu designs, the Melanau terendak, and the Malay keringkam.

“Today, we are witnessing the richness of culture and traditions in Sarawak which are still alive and well-preserved in an innovative way, whereby local designers and guests don their creative hats,” she said.

“I believe that this event is well on its way to be one of Kuching’s creative society’s favourite gatherings,” she said, noting that the annual event had sold out its tickets as early as last month.

Society Atelier Sarawak president Edric Ong (centre) with featured designers and models at the 4th Annual Mad Hatters Party. Photo: Ghazali Bujang

On tourism, Nancy said apart from focusing on efforts to boost domestic tourism, Motac was also placing emphasis on reinforcing the resilience of the tourism industry towards a more sustainable tourism model.

“This means that we need to evolve from repeating the same way of doing things to a way that is powered by creative and colourful innovation, especially in cultural craft and arts,” she explained.

She noted that tourism was the third biggest contributor to Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing RM86.1 billion or an estimated 15.9 percent to the nation’s GDP last year — with the cultural sector recording RM585.4 million on return of investment.

She said Motac had implemented several initiatives in marketing and promoting arts, culture, and heritage by utilising technology and innovation.

“Among the initiatives, the E-Kraf Bazar, which has benefitted a total of 1,198 craft entrepreneurs with a total sales value of RM5.8 million, does not just only serve as an online platform, but also as a stage that will sell Sarawak to the world,” she said.

As for the RM1 billion Penjana Tourism Financing facilities, Nancy said as of Sept 15, a total of 52 applications had been approved by participating banks.