Meet the Mengkuang Weavers of Sabah


Pandan or Mengkuang leaves are used by different ethnic groups in Sabah which includes communities from Brunei Papar, Iranun Kota Belud, Bajau Semporna, and Orang Ubian from Pulau Banggi. In the olden days, the leaves are weaved into mattresses or prayer mats. Nowadays, it is made into home decorations and even fashion accessories.

Puan Jelham

One of the entrepreneurs for the Pandan or Mengkuang weaving is Puan Jelham, who is a descendant of Bajau Ubian from Pulau Banggi. According to her, the handicraft is pioneered by the women of Bajau Ubian community and it is compulsory for family members to learn the weaving techniques in order to continue the legacy of their tradition. 

Puan Jelham works together with the community of Pulau Banggi, to ensure that the tradition and culture of Bajau Ubian community doesn’t go extinct. She helps with the promotion and sales aspect of Pulau Banggi’s weaving business, and also conducts handicraft courses in the area. She also owns a handicraft shop called J&L Aneka Kraftangan.

Among her achievements are Sijil Anugerah Khas Parawati Contoh tahun 2015 and Anugerah Parawati Cemerlang 2016.

Persatuan Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO)

Persatuan Wanita Pulau Omadal (WAPO) Semporna is another entrepreneur of Pandan leaves weaving handicrafts (tutored by Kraftangan Malaysia and Gerai Orang Orang Asal), where a community of women overcome social issues concerning them and their families. They encourage their local community to participate in environmental conservation activities and help improve the community’s socio-economy by earning a living  through creating handicrafts and eco-tourism programs.

The association was established in January 2010 and is registered under the Registrar of Societies Malaysia. They have been involved in various events organised by WWF such as Mataking Reef Day, Semporna Regatta Lepa, Minggu Penyu Laut Semporna and Majlis Berbuka Puasa Semporna 2013.

WAPO is currently working on the concept of “setiap pelancong ke Pulau Omadal adalah ‘partners’ dalam konservasi marin” (all tourists of Pulau Omadal are marine conservationists), where a sum of each tourism fee from the eco-tourism program will be donated to WAPO Conservation Fund. Each purchase will help increase the income of the communities in Pulau Omadal and 10% of the sales revenue will be used for the protection of the environment.