Sabah is full of native tribes that makes it a unique state. The diversity in culture gives Sabahans the identity, a trademark that put itself on the map. Whether if it is music, dance or craft this heritage is precious to the peoples of Sabah.As for me, growing up in Sabah has made me learn to celebrate the diversity that Sabah possessed. To take pride in our uniqueness and most of all to appreciate every aspect of culture. And from there on, I also learned to appreciate other cultures as well. The identity that sparks curiosity and knowledge and the colours that are captivating. I’ve experience as well. It’s as simple as an Indian family having dinner together. And some I only get to see on the television or pictures, but that never cease to amaze me. There’s always something special.
Living in a big city like KL, with all that glitz and modernization and invasion of the new media, I never expected to find something special. Something that caught my attention and always have. Something that I felt close to and in a way connected. It’s traditional crafts by the Orang Asli of West Malaysia.
Craft is apart of culture that tells the artistic development of a community. And crafts is one of the ways that a tribe is identified and gain it’s trade mark. Just like the sigar of the Kadazandusuns or the tudung duang of the Bajaus in Kota Belud.Weeks ago, I went to Art For Grabs at the Annexe Gallery. It’s a weekend bazaar that sells artworks, D.I.Y. crafts, books and many more by local artisans with selling price of not more than RM 100. Tucked at the corner of the gallery, is what I mentioned before; something special and attention grabbing; Gerai OA.
Gerai OA (Orang Asal) sellf crafts by the indigenous minorities of Malaysia. These crafts items such as wooden sculptures, handwoven textiles, woven bangles, pandanus pouches, vertical fish traps, hand woven mats and many more are made mostly by women and elders from various native minorities which include the Anak Negeri of Sabah, Orang Ulu of Sarawak and Orang Asli of West Malaysia.
Gerai OA believes in helping the indigenous communities to increase their quality of live by trade and also, to preserve the method, art and aesthetics of these crafts. And all the proceeds from the sell of the crafts goes to the artisan.
It is run by ever-changing bunch of volunteers who have been at it since October 2004, who aims to to document, revive & revitalise the heritage crafts of the Orang Asal. The effort is done by publication, photos, workshops and the distribution of the crafts.
I say, it is a great effort to help the indigenous people to better their quality of life. It is also a great way to increase awareness of the ‘mainstream’ people of the craft, especially, the people behind them.
The crafts at Gerai OA are not mass produced due to the limited natural sources to make these crafts and despite the great demand for certain crafts, they just can’t make more. Each of it is special. Each of it has a story and therefore, the amount put on each item is befitting. Each Ringgit you spend, can improve the lives of these people.
Heritage is meant be passed on. It’s not meant to stop and forgotten altogether. Heritage is what gives a community it’s identity and pride. The rejuvenation of the heritage crafts of the Orang Asal preserves this identity. Now, with Gerai OA’s aspirations, more eyes will be opened and perspective broadened. The lives of the Orang Asal, will be improved.
Thanks a lot to Reita Rahim, for allowing me to use the pictures for this post.
Visit Gerai OA’s Facebook page to give your support and, feast your eyes with the wonderful pictures of the Orang Asal.