Rattan is a thin but durable palm wood harvested from Borneo’s rich rainforest. Whole long houses have been known to be held together by a string of rattan! Flexible yet tough, it is no wonder rattan is used to make many traditional household items.
The most prominent items made of rattan are mats, traps and baskets. Rattan mats are comfortable and possess an aesthetic quality. On the other hand, rattan is used to make different kinds of fish traps as well as equipment for planting and harvesting paddy. Finally, you have rattan baskets which are used by the tribal groups for various purposes around the house. The baskets offer lightness and strength in carting heavy good each day. Today, these baskets have been adapted to make original souvenirs such as pen holders and vases for flowers.
What others to shop in Borneo?
Beads feature prominently among the tribal groups of Borneo. The Rungus people from Kudat, Sabah are especially famous for their multi-stranded pinakol bead necklaces. The beads are imprinted with intricate designs inspired by local legends. They also make bangles, ear rings and brooches from beads.
The parang is a traditional knife that is curved in a slight crescent and features a stump for a handle. The parang is a very practical item used not only by tribal groups but urban dwellers that frequent the jungle often. Parangs are now commercially produced and every household in the city usually has one as it has many uses. However, the Bajau from Kota Belud, Sabah still make parangs the traditional way. The hilt and sheath are carved from wood while the blade is made from tempered iron.
Tudung Duang is the local version of a food cover made from fabric to protect your dinner from flies and insects. They also make nice decorative items, being available in bright colours, sometimes with motifs.
Woodcarving is one of Borneo’s most important traditional skills. Tribal groups in both Sabah and Sarawak carve wood into useful everyday items; some for decorative purposes. Some of the things they make with wood include boats, blowpipes, bowls, ritual masks, figurines and weapons.
Pottery is yet another important tradition in indigenous culture. Using clay, tribal groups mould it into ceramic stools, drinking water cisterns, decorative jars and vases, lamps, candle holders, ashtrays, teapots, mugs and even photo frames. The Chinese that live in Borneo are also adept at making great pottery for the tourist market.