Posted by: Wisnu | December 12, 2017

Masarang Hong Kong’s Sustainable Merchandise

Masarang Hong Kong is trying to raise funds for the Sintang Orangutan Centre in West Kalimantan and the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre in North Sulawesi. One of the latest initiatives is to support the local Dayak women in the interior of West Kalimantan making small Dayak handicraft items as sustainable merchandise items. The women are members of the Koperasi Menenun Mandiri, which translates to the “We can do it ourselves” cooperative. Indeed, now the women make more money than most of their husbands! They seem to have been taking good care of the money they earn, rather than spending it on cigarettes, it ends up in funds to pay for the studies of their children!

The first type of product is a woven bracelet, very much based upon the woven clothes that the women in the cooperative are already making but much smaller obviously. Here are some photographs showing how the women make them and what types of bracelets they presently produce. The various motifs in the woven patterns represent various aspects of their culture, like protecting harmony, supporting good fortune and health as well as many other Dayak motifs.

The second type of bracelet is made from other jungle materials. They are made from rattan, a product normally better known as being used in the production of furniture. The rattan is sliced by hand in very thin strips that are then sometimes interwoven with the stems of a climbing fern with much darker shiny surface as seen here right.

No colouring is used, the products are 100% natural from intact jungle and are made by hand only by local women. These bracelets are made from a climbing palm from the rain forest of Borneo. The palms are very thorny and with long whips with hooks these palms can make walking in the rainforest very difficult. Interestingly, the palm is sometimes called “wait a moment!” for obvious reasons since the hooks are difficult to loosen from the clothing of a passing person! These palms have always been the most important material for the Dayak, former head-hunters of Borneo, to make baskets, fish traps, bind their huts and houses together, for mats and hundreds of other products. The material is very light but extremely strong and flexible. When kept clean it can last more than a hundred years! The bracelets are normally woven by one Dayak directly around the wrist of the other person and are difficult to take off. But the newer ones, like in the picture above, are now popular as gifts between Dayak members as well as for gifts to visitors.

The long rattan stems are pulled from between the branches of the trees. This does not damage the forest and the rattan immediately grows back from the clump in the soil with new shoots that fill up the space again. The stems are then thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then the stems are cut by hand in very fine long strings of the material that then are woven by Dayak women in the longhouse during the long evenings in the jungle, normally with the light of resin burning in bamboo. The women are very skilled at making all kinds of patterns. The various patterns in the woven end-product represent deeper meanings like prosperity, security, love, unity and many more.

The women that make both the woven as well as the rattan bracelets work in a cooperative set up by the formerly Dutch Missionary Father Jacques Maessen, with the goal of increasing their income while preserving their special Dayak skills.

By purchasing these 100% natural products from the intact rainforest you:

help protect the jungle and its inhabitants;
increase the well-being of the local people, while contributing to the preservation of their culture and traditional knowhow;
help to enable Masarang Hong Kong to support the salary of vets at both the Sintang Orangutan Centre and Tasikoki.

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