Weaving an artform: Tango Ngepan Iban lives on in Patricia Limau’s creations

Patricia Limau wearing one of her stunning handcraft Tango Ngepan Iban with a ‘bunga terung’ design.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, July 22: Who says staying at home can make life dull and uninspiring?

For Patricia Limau, she strongly believe that stay-at-home hobbies can expand one’s knowledge and help gain insight into the beauty of life.

This is especially when she has deep interest in a traditional craft which requires a lot of patience and perseverance – the Tango Ngepan Iban.

The Tango Ngepan is an intricately decorated accessory that is part of the Iban traditional dress, consisting of colored beads and handwoven materials.


The 40-year-old lass who hails from Song in Kapit said it all started as a hobby some five years ago.

While she was crafting her own Tango Ngepan, Patricia realised her hobby has grown into something more – interest with a deep passion.

The more difficult the designs were, the more she felt the urge to challenge herself that it can be done.

With her creativity and free time at home, she began to make more, and shared her stunningly beautiful Tango Ngepan on her social media.

It wasn’t long before friends and relatives started inquiring about her creations.

Tango Ngepan Iban

“The traditional Iban dress for women is called ‘Ngepan Iban’. Almost every cloth item in this dress is handwoven and filled with unique patterns; and one of the must haves is the handcrafted Tango Ngepan.

“A hereditary piece among the Iban community in Sarawak, Tango Ngepan is an essential part of our traditional dress. They are made of beads and decorated with pom-pom balls, which are made from yarn. This is to be worn around the neck on the shoulder, covering the upper chest area,” Patricia told DayakDaily.

As for the bead patterns, she said some were her own, while some were her buyers’ own preference.

She further asserted that the beaded craft work such as colors used and design can easily distinguish the Iban ethnicity from other ethnicities.

Patricia Limau’s handcrafted Tango Ngepan Iban.

The ethnic influence she said, also plays a major part in the pattern and technique of beads making, with each ethnic groups having different patterns and meaning of their beads.

“Each Tango Ngepan may take about two to three weeks for me to complete. It all depends on the design difficulty. I will spend about three to four hours working on this everyday, right after I am done with my housework.

“I also find it appealing because with this craft, I will never stop learning. There will always be something that I can improve on, especially the designs. This hobby has taken me the best part of my five years to get to where I am today and there are still many areas that I need to work on,” Patricia added.

On the other hand, while she believe that learning a skill does not happen overnight or in a generation where instant satisfaction is becoming the norm, she worries that the next generation will not have any interest or patience.

Traditional craft facing a possible threat

Patricia shared her concern over the possible threat of dying traditional craft because fewer and fewer among the younger generation are willing or able to continue the legacy of their tradition.

“I want to encourage the young generation to continue to produce craft and to pass their skills and knowledge onto others, particularly within their own communities. We must preserve and protect our tradition and handcrafts.

“If family members or our community is not interested nor learning it, the knowledge and skills will disappear one day. We must not let that happen. Instead, we must pass it on to future generations so that crafts can continue to be produced within their communities, providing livelihoods to their makers and reflecting creativity,” Patricia said.

The making of Tango Ngepan Iban with a ‘Burung Kenyalang’ design by Patricia Limau.

Apart from continuing the tradition which includes way of life and self-consumption, she added that this can also be an additional income for the women community.

Meanwhile, those who are interested to know more can contact Patricia at 019-8066567. — DayakDaily