Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Accessories with heart

Do you like my new necklace?
It is made of seeds!
I bought it from Gerai OA, a nomadic volunteer-run stall that sells handicrafts made by Orang Asal, the  indigenous minorities of Malaysia. One hundred percent of proceeds go back to the indigenous artisans. When I chanced upon the stall at an exhibition at the KL Convention Centre, my eyes were caught by these beautiful modern necklaces that were on display amidst the usual ethnic crafts. Only when I held them in my hands did I realise they were made entirely of sinangkil (seeds)!

The lady who was manning the stall told me they were made by the Momogun Rungus, the indigenous people of Sabah. They reside in northern Sabah, where woodworking and metalwork are practiced by the men and textile weaving and beading are done by the women. They also do basketry, and ironsmithing. The artisans who made my necklace live in a village called Kampung Tinangol in Kudat, Sabah. The main activity for the villagers is rice farming, with crafts as a supplementary income.

Incidentally, Gerai OA is part of a bigger movement for social entrepreneurship under the e-commerce site elevyn.com. The site connects indigenous and minority artisans directly with the consumer. Their blog talks about social entrepreneurship, fair trade, poverty and handmade crafts. Check them out here. Here's your chance to support a great movement and buy responsibly.

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