Preserving the art of Pua Kumbu
By:Annabell Naja Tommy
KCH-pua kumbu-2608-ant-7

KUCHING: Pua Kumbu weaving takes a long time as it requires persistence and dedication.

Many of those who have been indulging in this weaving are now getting on in years, thus raising the question as to what will become of the art if the younger generation does not step into their shoes.

Wan Juliana Emeih Wahed

According to Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak branch, College of Creative Arts senior lecturer Wan Juliana Emeih Wahed, educating the public about Pua Kumbu motifs is the most effective way to keep the tradition alive.

It will bring about an ideal comprehension and also result in positive perceptions, she said.

“Knowledge on the design motifs applied to Pua Kumbu textile needs to be transferred to the beholders to correct their perceptions and safeguard this tangible cultural heritage.

“Thus, to safeguard the intangible forms of cultural heritage, the knowledge barrier between beholders should first be eliminated to ensure that they can effectively attain the values and principles of their cultural heritage,” she said.

Wan Jualiana and her team from UiTM Sarawak have in this regard designed a mobile application called ‘Borneo Indigenous Treasures (BiTs).

“BiTs is an intelligent mobile application created to help users learn about the history of Pua Kumbu motifs, its history, culture behind it, and the sacred knowledge of the indigenous people. However, BiTs are still at the prototype stage,” she said. 

She said embracing mobile technology in promoting the Pua Kumbu textile would be one of the best solutions.

“This technique will improve the user experience, notably in safeguarding Pua Kumbu’s valuable local artefacts. In this way, the intangible cultural heritage of the local culture will be successfully imparted, and community acceptance will be enriched and spread,” she said.

On her views of ready-made cloths with Pua Kumbu design, she said the authentic textile should receive better recognition based on the credibility of the Pua Kumbu and the originality of the intangible features, which are the emblematic of the Iban community and Malaysia in general.

 “Integrating the Pua Kumbu design motifs to other product surfaces can enrich community acceptance and enhance the beholders’ perception and safeguard the art piece from being non-existent,” she said.

Sharin Sulaiman

Meanwhile, on preserving the tradition of Pua Kumbu making, academician Sharin Sulaiman, 40, said the Sarawak Dayak Association could collaborate with public or community libraries to organise local content (with series of training) with longhouses where the targeted group is youth.

“The cultural association also needs to give more incentives or awards at state or national level through competition among youth which is related to the Pua Kumbu such as Dayak Fashion Week,” she said.

Tracy Adeline Ajol

Tracy Adeline Ajol, 34, a lecturer, said that introducing or giving early exposure by introducing the learning of art products such as traditional Pua Kumbu patterns in the subject of art education can foster students’ interest from the start of school.

“In addition to holding a ‘Keling Gawai’ competition during the Gawai celebration, competitions related to the production of Pua Kumbu should also be done.

“Fashions such as the production of dresses, handbags and so on that have motifs or patterns can also be used as one of the ways for teenagers to learn towards producing Pua Kumbu,” she said.

She also said programmes such as short courses related to tourism for students who have completed their studies as previously organised at Sarakraf by SEDC are very suitable to be used as a medium to introduce the origin of Pua Kumbu in the form of a presentation and demonstration of how to weave and produce Pua Kumbu.

“Programmes like that need to be promoted more widely so that teenagers are more alert or aware,” she said.

Patricia Pawa Pitil

Another academic Patricia Pawa Pitil, 36, said that learning what is Pua Kumbu, and the motifs should be included in the Art syllabus during school years and also in university, especially in Sarawak.

“Many of us are still not familiar about the story behind Pua Kumbu, even though it is known as one of cultural heritage of Sarawak’s Iban people.

“Just like other types of local textile, the Pua Kumbu should be part of must-visit and must-know for tourists, not only the food we have, for instance the kek lapis, kolo mee and others,” she said.

Gilbert Katang

Gilbert Katang, 40, creative director of Borneo Republic Creations Malaysia, said it is important to create more awareness among the young generation on the importance and value of Pua Kumbu through creative creations by youths.

“Besides that, the government’s involvement in supporting activities of Pua Kumbu will also help in this effort,” he said.

As for entrepreneur Gailcenvilvia Jong, 35, she hopes to improve the yield and quality of Pua Kumbu to be able to penetrate the international market such as Europe so that the handiwork of Iban Sarawak women is more widely known.

“My hope is also that today’s young people can learn to make Pua Kumbu which symbolises the identity of the Iban community in Sarawak,” she said.

New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper

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