Penan Crafts

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Helping The Hands That Weave

            The Penan are traditionally hunter-gatherers, who have, until recently, lived a nomadic life deep in the jungles of Borneo. Urbanisation and certain commercial practices have triggered significant changes in the Penan's natural habitat and livelihood, resulting in many migrating to towns in the hope of securing employment, access to medical treatment and education. Unfortunately, many Penan families have found it difficult to adapt to these changes. For women in particular, obtaining employment is a major challenge, leaving them stuck in an unforgiving poverty trap. Whilst public education is free, the lack of finances to purchase uniforms, books, school supplies and bus fares means that many children are unable to attend school, or inevitably drop-out due to financial constraints.

            HelpinghandsPenan is a charity whose mission is to provide assistance to Penan in need. We are driven by the twin goals of catering to short-term basic needs and empowering the Penan to be self-sufficient in the long-run. We do this by helping the hands that weave. The art of weaving is deeply ingrained in Penan culture, passed down from generation to generation. With skilled hands, strips of coloured material are brought to life and lovingly transformed into beautiful crafts, each telling a unique story. Our role at HelpinghandsPenan is to facilitate the sale of these crafts and bring these gems from the jungle to the rest of the world. Over the years, the growing demand in Penan crafts has reignited interest in traditional weaving, such that Penan girls and young women are now keen to hone their skills in what had previously been perceived to be a dying trade.

 

See their crafts here.