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The Handicraft Series:
1. Silverwork - continues to flourish
2. Weaving (Tenunan) - an art into a tradition
3. Kris - the Malays' unique and ancient weapon
4. Songkok - the cap that became a symbol
5. Tudung Dulang - a dish of a cover
6. Weaving (Anyaman) - the hobby that became a traditional art
7. Brasswork - another ancient craft of Brunei Darussalam


Menganyam, which can be translated as plaiting or weaving certain parts of bamboo, rattan and the leaves of other plants into a variety of articles is one of Brunei Darussalam's traditional handicrafts.

Fig.1 Numerous articles, waived or plaited from leaves, rattan and bamboo

Like any art, plaiting requires skills, concentration and patience. It was started in Brunei Darussalam a long time ago by housewives as a hobby to pass away the time while their husbands, who were either farmers or fishermen, went about their works.

As time passed they became skillful and creative, turning out beautiful finished products that those not blessed with the know-how were eager to buy them or trade something valuable in their possession for them. Thus what originally began as a pastime became a sideline income earner for the diligent housewives.

In those days skills of any kind did not come easily and nor were they eagerly divulged. What one learned one usually kept to oneself and passed on only to members of one's family.

Plaiting was no exception. It joined other crafts, the secrets of which were jealously guarded by those in possession of the knowledge.

Fig.2 Numerous articles, waived or plaited from leaves, rattan and bamboo


Some of the more popular items still plaited today are tudung dulang or dishcover and bakul or basket and other related articles.

Basket-weaving is believed to have originated from Sengkurong and Tanjung Nangka, two villages about 17 km southwest of the capital, and dishcover-making had its roots in the Kampong Ayer or Water Village half of the capital.

Fig.3 Nyiru

Basket and other related containers come in many sizes, shapes and colours. They include the ordinary baskets with or without covers; takiding which is taller and wider at the top and is borne piggy-back fashion for carrying fruits, vegetables and harvested rice; nyiru which is tray-shaped and used for drying foodstuffs and winnowing paddy, among other things; takung, a square sieve-like container used in the kitchen mainly for washing thngs like vegetables and fish; and tapisan, another strainer but smaller and finer than the takung.

Fig.4 Takiding

To make a basket or any related containers, bubuh liat or flexible young bamboos are used. Each stalk is cut to the required length and split into eight equal parts. These are then scraped until smooth and painted in different colours according to the kind of design the weaver has in mind. The process of weaving begins as soon as the paint is dry.


The rim and the framework, which are made from rattan dahanan, are double-layered to act as grip for the edges and other parts of the plaited bamboo strips. The grip is further secured with rattan paladas or rattan manuk. Nowadays some weavers break with tradition by using strong strings like tangsi or catgut.

Moreover, the weaver's skills are no longer confined to producing traditional household-type articles but a host of other things as well, including hats, purses, handbags, tissue boxes and decorative miniatures.

Fig.5 A student shown the correct way of plaiting

The skills, which were once hard to get hold of, have been formally made available to school leavers since 1975 at the Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre. The instructors are from Kampong Ayer, who acquired their skills the traditional way and thus with their help another cultural heritages has been assured of survival in Brunei Darussalam.

Source: Brunei Today published by Information Department, 1994


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