Rattan mats in danger

Getting to know your kasah

Story and photos by KERNI PUAH
sarawakstar@thestar.com.my

THE kasah or Bidayuh rattan mats are considered as works of art and fetch high prices due to a rise in demand.

However, this Bidayuh mat-making heritage is dying slowly as the new generation has no interest in learning the art.

Because of this, the kasah is being overtaken by mats from Kalimantan.

New design: Hadran showing the kasah sagah emas.

It is the most-sought-after item at the Serikin weekend market near Serian, especially among visitors from Peninsular Malaysia.

But as the mats become part of a lucrative business, their quality has declined noticeably.

The Indonesian traders seem to be out to make a fast buck due to the demand.

In the old days, when the mats were not highly valued or sought after, the craftsmanship was superior. The Bidayuhs used the mats to dry harvested padi in the sun.

The mats sold at the Serikin market is not as durable to the real kasah and should rightly be called tikar Kalimantan.

Hadran: He sells the rattan mats at the Serikin weekend market.

Buyers should learn how to tell between a good and poor-quality rattan mat.

The highest-quality mat is the sagah emas which can last between 20 to 30 years, depending on how it is used. Another type of mat is made from a low-quality rattan called kelasah, which can break easily and is not durable.

Buyers should also know of the reasonable prices for the mat, so that they don’t get ripped off.

Usually, a 10 x 12 feet mat made from sagah rattan is sold for between RM180 and RM250 a piece.

A rattan mat trader at the Serikin market said recently the mat producers had come op with a new design which could fetch up to RM250 a piece.

Trader Hadran Effendi from Seluas in West Kalimantan said the lowest price for a sagah emas mat measuring 7 x 10 feet was RM200.

Mats made of kelasah measuring 7 x 10 feet would cost about RM120 each.

On a normal weekend, there are about 12 rattan mat traders in Serikin.

Due to the brisk business, each trader rakes in thousands of ringgit in sales every weekend.

Some of them are specially weaved with black-dyed rattan.

Hadran said the colour was extracted from a wild plant called daun anyam.

He said the rattan was boiled with the daun anyam and the sap from the plant turned the rattan black.

The black rattan is used to produce designs on the kasah mats.

Home decorations: A shop in Serikin selling various rattan products including baskets.

On how to take care of a mat, Hadran said that varnish should not be applied and it should not be washed with water and detergents.

“The finished product belies the challenges of gathering the rattan. It can be arduous and dangerous and the processing is hard work,” he added.

In the jungle, the gatherers pull down the rattan in coils and sometimes dislodge wasp and ant nests. They also risk being lacerated by its spines and barbed whips. The leaves and leaf sheaves are removed by pulling them around or over a tree trunk.

While the women split the rattan, the mat weaving is usually done by the men. In the past, it was done between the rice planting seasons.

The unique design is achieved by laying split strips of rattan of about one centimetre wide, side by side. The strips are pierced and bound by braiding them with rattan fibre.

To secure the edge, the ends of the strips are crushed and plaited into a decorative border. The mats can be rolled but never folded.

A creatively woven mat will have designs that are spectacular, although of only two colours — black and beige of the undyed fibre.

Rattan mats have stood the test of time and becoming popular with modern decorators and homemakers seeking unusual, beautiful and long-lasting floor coverings.

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Terengganu Stone listed with UNESCO

Our heritage etched in world memory 2010/05/26 New Straits Times

 TWO of the country’s historical documents are being evaluated to be included under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Memory of the World programme. The programme is aimed at preserving and disseminating valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide. It facilitates the preservation of the world’s documentary heritage using the latest techniques and assists in universal access to documents. Heritage Commissioner Prof Datuk Dr Zuraina Majid said so far four of the country’s historical documents had been inscribed under the programme. “We have sent in two more documents for consideration this year and will know the result next year as documents are inscribed every two years.” The documents were recommended to Unesco as they were of world interest, she added. Locally, historical documents are preserved by several custodians, including the National Archives, National Library and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. “The most recent document to be inscribed was Batu Bersurat Terengganu (Inscribed Stone of Terengganu) last year, and the custodian is the Terengganu Museum,” Zurina said. She said the department did not collect artefacts or documents as that was the role of the National Archives and Museums Department. “We only protect and preserve tangible, intangible and natural heritage. We also conserve important buildings and sites, create awareness and promote our heritage and nominate our heritage for world heritage inscriptions.” Museums Department director-general Datuk Ibrahim Ismail said historical artefacts were well-preserved at museums nationwide, including souvenirs given to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “The Galeria Perdana in Langkawi houses the souvenirs and they are under conservation. Of course, the department has never sold off or given away its artefacts as they are valuable to the country.” He said besides the souvenir items, other artefacts related to Dr Mahathir’s life and his family were conserved at the Galeria Sri Perdana, run by the National Archives. Documents and artefacts belonging to other former prime ministers, such as Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, are kept in their memorials under the supervision of the National Archives. Ibrahim said the National Museum sometimes exhibited the artefacts abroad but ensured that all items were brought back home safely after the exhibitions. Read more: Our heritage etched in world memory http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/20sehva/Article/#ixzz0srx5GhaB

Heritage protection for neglected church

The Star: Saturday January 23, 2010 and March 20

MALACCA: The ruins of a 17th century church next to the Malacca

Ruins of the Ermida Do Rosario

River in Pangkalan Rama will finally get some protection from heritage authorities.

The Ermida do Rosario, or The Church of Rosary, was a Portuguese chapel built on the site of the Church of St Lawrence.

It was either destroyed or allowed to fall into ruins during the first decade of the Dutch occupation of Malacca in 1641 and was subsequently taken over by St Peter’s Church, which was erected nearby in 1710.

Sad state: Sim looking at the ruins of the Ermida do Rosario in Malacca Friday.

The National Heritage Department has allocated RM20,000 to carry out necessary work to give the historical site due recognition following the media highlighting the issue.

Heritage Commissioner Datuk Prof Zurina Abdul Majid said field work on the historical ruins would commence once the department finalised plans for the site.

Besides the site being used as a dumping ground, heavy machinery employed for the nearby proposed monorail project had resulted in damage to a section of the ruins.

Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him said he raised the issue of the site’s state of neglect in Parliament last December following numerous complaints by heritage conservationists.