Weaving a livelihood

Nora weaving nylon into beautiful baskets for sale at Mid-Layar Resting Centre.

By D’Drift Team

BETONG, Oct 20: Colourful baskets in various shapes and sizes with unique patterns handwoven from nylon displayed at the open space of Mid-Layar Rest Stop here are waiting for takers.

A 57-year-old woman, Nora Aji, sat silently as her nimble fingers weaved together nylon strips to transform them into exquisite baskets for sale at the rest stop on a Tuesday afternoon with hope that people who stopped by to stretch their legs, have a bite or take a leak in what is probabaly the most decorated public toilet in Sarawak will buy at least one product.


The Iban basket weaver from Kampung Lubau Baru in Layar, about 3km from the rest stop, is selling the baskets as means of creating a small source of income to support her family but without realising it, is also keeping alive and preserving the traditional art and skill of indigenous basket-weaving of the Dayak communities.

“Business is ok. I sell one or two baskets a day. I have been selling here for about two or three years now. There were less people stopping by last year due to movement restrictions.

“It helps to bring some income as my husband is not working now due to injury to his legs while my children are only earning enough for themselves,” she told the D’Drift Team when met yesterday.

Colourful handwoven baskets from nylon in various shapes and sizes with unique patterns wait for takers.

Nora started weaving when she was a young girl, a practice she learned by observing her elders at her longhouse.

It takes about four days to plait a big tote-like basket carrier and nine days to create a large cylindrical basket supported by four vertical sticks on the side with two shoulder straps called “baduk” normally used to carry heavy loads like paddy and fruits from the farm.

There are also baskets to trap and carry fish and big laundry basket as well as baskets made from bamboo or rattan including small sling baskets to carry small items or personal belongings, medium-size mats and winnowing trays which are somewhat flat fan-shaped and used for sifting grain, paddy or dry stuff.

“Weaving baskets takes a lot of patience. I weave nearly everyday and sometimes from morning until night, making a range of baskets of different sizes, shapes and styles or designs. Like the small carrier, I like making them in a single striking colour,” she said.

Baskets to trap and carry fish.

Asked if she has taken the opportunity to sell through e-commerce platforms or online as the shopping trend has moved more towards digital since Covid-19, Nora said the telecommunication network in her village is rather poor and Internet access is not available yet.

“There was a visitor who stopped by and while browsing through the products, recommended that I register or apply with Kraftangan Malaysia (Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation, but I have not approached them and plus I don’t know how to do so,” she explained.

As baskets and bags woven from nylon, bamboo and rattan are known for their durability, unique patterns and vibrant colours, making them so trendy right now, Nora also takes orders by phone. Her customers are from across Sarawak including Kuching, Lawas, Sibu and Miri.

“A Chinese customer has already booked the large baduk basket for use to collect durians,” she added.

Large cylindrical baskets supported by four vertical sticks on the side with two shoulder straps called “baduk”.

Apart from basketry, Nora also knows how to weave textiles like the Iban Pua Kumbu, a traditional patterned multicoloured ceremonial cloth made from cotton, but due to the time-consuming process, she has stopped making them.

Weaving has long been a traditional skill among indigenous people in Sarawak who utilised everything that nature provided to produce useful items like baskets, hats, mats, trays and  hunting gear.

Today, these traditional handmade products or crafts not only offer a source of livelihood, but has also potentially opened doors for indigenous communities to share their culture with the world through e-commerce.

Nora prices her handcrafted baskets between RM30 to RM300 according to size. She is usually at her spot at the rest stop from 7am until 4.30pm. Those interested to purchase or order specially-made baskets may contact her at 019-8152546.— DayakDaily

Nori sells handmade baskets in various sizes, shapes and styles or designs.
Winnowing trays made from bamboo strips which are traditionally used for sifting grain, paddy or dry stuff.