Woven Dreams & Music from the Malaysia Borneo Rainforests
From the deep mystical forests of Borneo, emerged a group of women whose aspiration was to be the world’s best weavers. Their woven dreams were achieved in 1998 when they were awarded the UNESCO CRAFTS PRIZE.
This August 2 and 3, Californians will have a rare opportunity to view two master weavers (Bangie Embol and Nancy Ngali) from the Sarawak Iban community demonstrating their skills on their back-strap loom at the World Weaving Marketplace in San Juan Capistrano.
Iban (Sea Dayaks) women have for generations been the keepers of material culture, most importantly through the woven art of pua kumbu - a warp Ikat natural dyed cotton textile. The creation of such textiles is associated with dreams. Traditionally, designs and patterns were given to the weaver through divine inspiration by the weaving goddess Kumang. To the traditional Iban, such pua kumbu textiles are imbued with a spiritual power and are associated with traditional rituals and religious ceremonies. The pua kumbu has received international recognition since it was first introduced to the textile world in the mid 1980s, and have been much sought after by collectors, museums and galleries world-wide because of their uniqueness and beauty. These textiles now carry the UNESCO-AHPADA Craft Seal of Excellence.
Accompanying the weavers is international speaker/scholar, Edric Ong, also an architect and designer by profession. Mr. Ong’s keen interest in Iban warp-ikat weaving has led him to publish Pua Kumbu - Iban Weavings of Sarawak (1986). The book has since become a standard reference work on the subject. He also leads the World Eco-Fiber & Textile (W.E.F.T.) network, and is a renowned speaker on textiles, heritage and conservation. His work has won him international recognition in Europe, Australia and Asia.
Music enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that Mathew Ngau Jau, the master sape musician and dancer who recently completed a 10-city tour of North America will be returning again to California as part of the Sarawak team. Audience will be entranced by his sape rhythms. His warrior dance is a must see performance.
The sape (also known as sampet, sampeh, sapeh) is a traditional lute of many Orang ulu or upriver people, who live in the longhouses that line the rivers of Central Borneo. The instrument is made from a single bole of tebuloh wood and the frets are carved from palm stalk, and held on by a gum made by the kelulut bee. Its use was restricted to a form of ritualistic music to induce trance. Gradually it became a social instrument, used as accompaniment for recreational dances. Sape is usually ornamented with intricate traditional motifs, and is painted according to the owner's social status. Sape music is often inspired by dreams; there are over thirty-five traditional pieces with many variations.
The 4-member Sarawak team will also be demonstrating at the Bowers Museum,Santa Ana on July 31, Westwood United Methodist Church, Los Angeles on August 05 and Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood on August 06. Event sponsors include Bowers Museum, Asian & Tribal Art-Los Angeles and Textile Museum Associates of Southern California.
Malaysia comprised of the Malay Peninsular, and parts of Borneo Island and is a melting pot of Asian and a few European cultures. It is a country so unique and diverse, yet unknown to many North Americans. For information on Malaysia, call 1-800-336-6842 or log on to www.tourism.gov.my.
The Sarawak team’s trip is sponsored by Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, Sarawak Tourism Board, North America Asean Consultants Inc., and Society Atelier Sarawak. Artisans’ profile is available at www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com/ramb. Non-profit organizations interested in inviting the Sarawak team to conduct workshops for their members are requested to contact North America Asean Consultants Inc., the media/event coordinating office at Tel: 1 604 662-8781 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Photographs available upon request.