Sarawak’s pride: Kapit master weaver Bangie Embol honoured as National Craft Icon 2024 for Pua Kumbu mastery

Bangie holding the National Craft Icon 2024 award. Also on stage are (from left) Tiong, Anwar, Khairul Firdaus, and Ainu Sham. Photo credit: Alexander Nanta Linggi/Facebook

KUCHING, Feb 25: Bangie Embol, a Sarawakian master weaver from Kapit, has been named National Craft Icon 2024 for her significant contributions to preserving the traditional craft of Pua Kumbu, a handwoven Iban textile.

According to a news report today by The Star, the 78-year-old artisan expressed her gratitude for receiving the award.

“It motivates me to go on promoting and preserving the craft to pass down from one generation to another.

“I am excited and my spirits are high to continue weaving and to tell the stories of the Iban through the intricate designs of the Pua Kumbu,” she was quoted as saying to reporters at the National Craft Complex in Kuala Lumpur yesterday (Feb 24).

As per the news outlet, Bangie received the National Craft Icon 2024 award from Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The award is the highest recognition for craft entrepreneurs and artists’ contributions to the development and empowerment of craft products in Malaysia.

Bangie who hails from Rumah Gare in Sungai Kain, Kapit, learned to weave from her mother and grandmother when she was ten-years-old.

According to The Star report, Bangie’s long list of accolades include the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Crafts Prize 1998 for Natural Dye Weaving, recognition as Sarawak Living Legend of Ikat Weaving by the Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts Ministry in 2019, and the Hasanah Gold Thread Award for the Best Traditional Ikat category last year.

Among those present at the event were Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dato Sri Tiong King Sing and his deputy Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, and Kraftangan Malaysia director-general Datuk Ainu Sham Ramli.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post today, Federal Minister of Works Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi expressed his pride over Bangie’s recognition.

“When you mention ‘Pua Kumbu’, most people think of Sarawak in general. However, many people are unaware that Pua Kumbu is one of the Iban community’s identities as a result of Iban women’s weavings.

“If you come to Kapit, I can take you to meet the women and see for yourself how they make this woven cloth with 1,001 stories.

“Nothing makes you more proud than seeing Puan Bangie Embol, a Kapit native, receive the National Craft Icon 2024 award from the Prime Minister last night,” he said.

Nanta, who is also Kapit MP, stated that Bangie deserved the title of ‘Adiguru Kraf Tenun Pua’ (Pua Master Weaver) after 40 years of dedication in promoting the art throughout the world. — DayakDaily