Inmates at Puncak Borneo Prison gain new skills as songket weavers

Some of the songkets produced by Puncak Borneo Prison inmates.

KUCHING, Jan 26: Sarawak will soon produce more skilled songket weavers as Puncak Borneo Prison is now a songket production hub.

This was made possible when the Sarawak government and Malaysian Prisons department entered a strategic collaboration under the Old Kuching Smart Heritage Heritage (OKSHE) project to preserve Sarawak’s Malay songket heritage.

OKSHE in a statement said the project, consisting of a songket workshop which sits on a 2.5 acre land at Puncak Borneo Prison, was implemented by the Public Works Department (JKR) Sarawak.

“With a capacity of 100 weaving houses, it can produce not only a large number of quality songket products but also provide opportunities for prison inmates to gain new skills and generate their own income after undergoing rehabilitation and jail term.

“Centre of Technical Excellence (Centexs) Commercial Services Sdn Bhd will then commercialise and promote the songket under the brand Sarapride at Songket Gallery and Keringkam, Jalan Masjid in Kuching,” the statement said.

In addition, CCS will expand the sales through several digital platforms.

Juma’ani (seated) tries her hand at songket weaving.

Today, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was made between Deputy State Secretary (Performance Transformation and Service Delivery) who is representing the Sarawak Government Datu Dr Sabariah Putit and Commissioner General of Malaysian Prisons Department who is representing the Federal Government Dato Nordin Muhamad, and witnessed by the Patron of Sarawak Heritage Innovation Project: Songket and Keringkam Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang.

Through the collaboration, OKSHE believes the project will also elevate Sarawak’s traditional weaving to the world through large-scale production, branding, packaging and effective marketing.

They can also collaborate with manufacturers, researchers, marketers and government agencies in promoting the songket industry.

A songket pattern produced by inmates from Puncak Borneo Prison.

Meanwhile, Puncak Borneo Prison is the seventh prison that is collaborating with Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong on weaving workshops.

Currently, Sarapride’s first weaving workshop at Puncak Borneo Prison has 26 weaving houses and a total of 38 weavers.

They have produced some 226 songkets since the workshop began operating in 2020 in collaboration with OKSHE,CENTEXS, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and the local songket community. — DayakDaily