Woman turns hobby into tribal handicraft business

Bags with unique weavings produced by Sabrina

KUCHING: It began as a hobby for Sabrina Nayah Joshua to collect hand woven rattan baskets (belanyat or lupong) of the Penan and Kenyah tribes after she was relocated to work in Long Jekitan, Ulu Baram in 2015.

Ever since then, she has turned her passion for the unique tribal handicraft into a business venture by recreating the handicraft into finer products to suit customers’ taste.

“I started getting to know the belanyat (rattan basket) after being relocated to work in Long Jekitan area, Ulu Baram.

“There, the majority of the residents are Penan, especially from the villages of Long Bee, Long Tikan and Ba Purau, followed by some Kenyah residents from Long Makaba,” she told New Sarawak Tribune on Monday.

She said the local women would bring the belanyat or lupong handicraft to work, hence arousing here interest and passion into producing the crafts.

“In the beginning, I did it just for fun but my collection soon received attention from outside community.

“From there, I started using modern design concepts in crafting the belanyat as an innovative product,” she added.

According to the 30-year-old woman from Sri Aman, she is grateful that the activities that began as a hobby has emerged as a source of income through her SNJ Collection’s or Algasana Boutique which is registered under the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).

“Apart from easing my husband’s burden in supporting the family, I am also more or less helping the suppliers from the Penan community, to generate income.

“I also want to highlight the talents of the Penans to the public, that they are good in making creative handicrafts that can appeal to the global community,” she said.

Sabrina revealed that her work has caught the attention of customers, even from outside of Sri Aman.

“My craft products are also sold abroad such as in Kuwait, Singapore, Brunei and Australia,” she added.

Sabrina said that the Covid-19 pandemic was not a big problem for her, as demands remained consistent by selling her crafts using online platforms.

“I am open for orders anytime to customers who are interested in my products.

“Although customers cannot come to visit, to see and to touch the handicraft, but they are still excited to see the uniqueness of belanyat patterns displayed on social media,” she explained.

Sabrina said that various weaving products are sold, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rope-based baskets, rattan weaving bags decorated with various interesting patterns with a carving concept.

“I also sell a variety of traditional Orang Ulu clothing, Iban ngepan and several other products on a small scale according to customers’ demand.

“For the belanyat which is the main product, it is sold from between RM70 and RM180 depending on the size and pattern.

“Usually, customers who are from nearby areas will come to claim the baskets themselves because I do not provide any delivery service other than those outside the area,” she said.

For customers who are interested in Sabrina’s handicrafts, they are encouraged to contact her at 011-26691836 or visit her Facebook page at SNJ Collection’s or ALGASANA BOUTIQUE.

Bags with unique weavings produced by Sabrina