From humble beginnings to ‘living legend’ — ‘pua kumbu’ weaver Bangie Embol’s success well-deserved

Ong (left) and Bangie showing one of her 'pua kumbu'.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Dec 2: Sarawak’s very own ‘pua kumbu’ artisan and weaver, Bangie Embol, has been regarded as a ‘living legend’ due to her immense contribution to promoting the Iban culture.

Asean Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA) president Edric Ong asserted that Bangie is not only an ‘Ahli Guru Kraft Negara’ bestowed by Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation at the national level, but she just received the recognition of Asia Pacific Craft Master designated by the World Crafts Council Asia Pacific.

“She is among a list of ‘living legends’ and young masters in the emerging society,” added Ong.

He said she deserved it, as she had travelled to London, Europe, the United States, Australia, and many Asian cities to promote the Iban’s ‘ikat’ textile and is recognised internationally for it.

“She and her late mother won the Unesco craft prize for ‘ikat’ in 1998. That is the major achievement, and she is one of truly living legends, on top, she is also a recognised dye master,” said Ong.

Hailing from Kapit, 78-year-old Bangie revealed she was only ten years old when she learned to weave from her mother and grandmother, adding that she was diligent in learning the art from them.

“The ‘pua kumbu’ is an Iban ceremonial cloth, and we must respect it because each intricate motif and design has a meaning.

“Respecting what we are doing, customs, and beliefs will bring inner peace within ourselves and make the work beautiful. Every artisan wants that,” she said when interviewed by DayakDaily.

“What we visualise and want from our heart and soul is put into the motif. It could depict a human, animal, aquatic life, plants, and flowers mostly related to our Iban beliefs and culture.”

She also revealed that she hopes to pass down her skills and knowledge in weaving the Iban ceremonial cloth to her children and grandchildren.

Bangie disclosed that her work had brought her to many places and that she was proud to contribute to the Iban heritage.

“I thank the Society Atelier of Sarawak and others who recognised me for my work. I won many awards and accolades, and my heart is to show and share something unique among Sarawak artisans and the world,” she added. — DayakDaily