Plates with Iban motifs – preserving tradition


There is a new art product in town – hand-painted ceramic plates with traditional Iban motifs.

Helena showing the plates that she makes.

Aware of the importance of preserving traditional art, craft entrepreneur Helena David Kalum has come up with the initiative to produce these plates.

The 47-year-old Iban woman from Ulu Layar, Betong started making these plates since April this year.

She uses high quality clay and hand-paints on the plate old Iban motifs.   

The finished plates are then baked at a high temperature within 48 hours.

“The idea of producing these plates came about because it was quite difficult to get hold of old plates with such traditional Iban motifs.  

“At the same time, the art of making such plates has been overlooked by Sarawak craft entrepreneurs,” Helena told New Sarawak Tribune’s sister paper Suara Sarawak.

Elaborating further, she said in the past, such plates symbolised a person’s status and were used during festivals or when important guests visited a longhouse.

Various types of plates with traditional Iban motifs that Helena makes.

“Nowadays, antique plates with such designs are only kept as collections.  It is quite difficult to get them because many are lost, broken or burnt due to longhouse fires.”

The plates that Helena produces have yet to be marketed, including online.

“Although I have already received reservations for the plates to be used as home decorations, right now, I am making more people awareness of such art,” she said.

She added that her focus now was to highlight more Iban motifs so that the plates would become unique works of art that could be promoted internationally.

Helena also hopes to introduce the plates to the local community.  

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