Kuching City proclaimed `International City for Crafts’

Abdul Karim (fifth from right) and Dr Ghada (fifth from left) lifting up the cloth to unveil the Kuching Crafts City plaque.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, March 15: The City of Kuching has been conferred by the World Crafts Council (WCC) as an `International City for Crafts’. This makes Sarawak the first state in Malaysia to be honoured with this prestigious recognition.

Kuching City joined the ranks of other Craft Cities such as Jaipur in India, Jogjakarta (Indonesia), Dongyang and Dehua (China), Sakon Nahon (Thailand), Isfahan (Iran) and 20 other cities around the world that has been accredited as Craft Cities by the World Crafts Council, a Unesco Category A affiliated organisation.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah pointed out that this great honour was important and meaningful to Sarawak, especially in boosting the ongoing Visit Sarawak Campaign (VSC), which started at the beginning of this year.

“We actually received the conferment letter on Nov 28 last year. We want to thank the Evaluation Jury of WCC, led by Dr Ghada Hijjawai Qaddumi, who is the president of WCC International, for all the hard work, including paying a visit to Kuching, to make the evaluation,” he said at the announcement and unveiling of Kuching Crafts City plaque at the Auditorium of the Old Courthouse here today.

The auspicious ceremony was attended by Dr Ghada, Assistant Minister of Laws and Customs Datuk John Sikie Tayai, WCC advisor (Asia Pacific Region) Datin Raja Fuziah Raja Tun Uda, Society Atelier Sarawak (SAC) president Dr Edric Ong, SAC advisor Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Empiang Jabu and Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) Mayor Datuk Abang Wahap Abang Julai.

“We are proud of this acknowledgement because our city is establishing itself as a popular destination for arts and handicrafts lovers, artworks and antique collectors worldwide,” said Abdul Karim.

Abdul Karim (right) sharing a light moment with Ong (centre) and John on stage after unveiling the ‘Living Legends’ mock book.

The state government, Abdul Karim assured, would remain committed to building its strengths and support the growth and diversity of Sarawak’s heritage, cultural and artistic sectors.

Recognising the many skilled and talented craftspeople and artisans in Sarawak, he emphasised the need for a big craft centre for Kuching as only Miri has one such centre, currently.

“This is our priority, and I will speak to the Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) about this. We need a big centre, where craftspeople and artisans can showcase their crafts and products while making a living with their skills.

“The tourism industry is getting bigger, and there are many new opportunities in the creative industry from handmade crafts, performing arts to food and culinary,” he added.

With the Sarawak Museum Campus near completion, he shared that the city would also get to see more galleries being set up as well as getting Niah Cave accredited as a Unesco heritage site and exploring and exposing more areas that have yet to be prodded.

“We are not promoting Sarawak as a shopping paradise but a paradise for arts, culture and adventure. Sarawak is a wonderful place for our visitors to discover because we are unique in our own way.

“Sarawak is home to more than 27 ethnic groups living peacefully and harmoniously together. That means, we have 27 different cultures, 27 ways of life, and the different kinds of cuisines,” he added.

Abdul Karim (left) presenting the certificate and poster to the living legend Matthew Ngau Jau, who is a sape maker and master musician.

In addition, Abdul Karim revealed that his ministry was now formulating the State Inventory of Cultural Assets, which the List of Living Legends and Young Masters will become part of the inventory.

Similarly, he said the state government would also be supporting the publication of the inventory by SAC in the form of a coffee table book and possibly the video documentation on the various subject matters.

“We are also fully committed to fulfilling our obligation of the World Crafts City status and to undertake various initiatives, including hosting the upcoming biennial crafts forum (AHPADA) in Kuching jointly with the World Eco Fibre and Textile Forum (WEFT),” he added.

The crafts forum called the AHPADA-WEFT Forum from Nov 8 to 10 this year and themed ‘Dress and Cultural Identity’ has confirmed speakers from 20 countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Korea, Japan, Myanmar, USA, China, Argentina, Thailand, Laos, Brunei, Britain, Bhutan, Canada Australia as well as our own Sarawak and Malaysian scholars.

“I am also pleased to know that there are plans to host the World Crafts Cities Network Forum. For this to happen, we seek the support and approval of WCC to invite all the mayors and officials from over 30 international cities to converge here in Kuching this year,” he appealed.

While Sarawak has seen a resurgence of many of its crafts in the last couple of years, Abdul Karim hoped that the many initiatives implemented would motivate local young fashion designers, musicians and artistes to think globally and be ready to explore new frontiers.

“It is our hope for our local people to input greater creativity in all of our arts and crafts products that will make the ‘Made in Sarawak’ a much sought after brand.

“We will live up to the billing to make Kuching City as one of the exemplary models in World Crafts Council’s `International City for Crafts’ initiatives,” he assured.

During the ceremony, there were also presentations of certificates of recognition and posters to Emerging Communities, Young Masters and Living Legends as well as the unveiling of ‘Living Legends’ mock book and a poster of WCC Crafts Cities Network Forum/AHPADA-WEFT Forum. — DayakDaily