Tudung Duang Crafting with the Bajau Sama of Kota Belud

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By Geena Roslyna

 

The sun streamed into my living room on that cheerful Friday morning as the clock struck 8:00 AM.

 

“Kada hivaii mogovit usin montok takanon dangadau,” my grandmother reminded me as I double-checked my bag, ensuring I had everything for our trip to Kota Belud.

 

In English, her words meant, “Don’t forget to bring some cash for lunch.”

 

“Got it,” I assured her, waving goodbye as we began our road trip to visit a local craftswoman, Puan Sharifah Artini who lives in Kota Belud. Artini is renowned for her skill in crafting intricate Bajau handicrafts like the colourful Tudung Duang (a food cover that resembles a straw hat) and Serdang gift boxes from sewn Serdang leaves! 

Meeting Puan Sharifah, the Owner of Anyaman Serdang   

Sooner or later, our journey led us to Kampung Pengkalan Abai, Kota Belud, where Artini of Anyaman Serdang lived. Upon our arrival, Artini, wearing a yellow blouse and white pants, warmly welcomed us with drinks and refreshments while she prepared her tools and equipment to show us the process of making the Tudung Duang

 

When we sat down together and asked about her crafting journey, Artini shared that she started learning how to weave Serdang at the age of 14 years old.


“As a young girl, I would accompany my mother to various cultural events where we would showcase our handicraft items and sell them”, she recalls with a nostalgic twinkle in her eyes. 

 

Gathering Materials for the Tudung Duang

Crafting the Tudung Duang is a cherished tradition by the Bajau people of Sabah. This Bajau heritage, rooted in centuries of tradition, not only serves practical needs but also symbolises a deep cultural bond and community spirit. 

 

To begin with, the materials are sourced directly from the environment. Fun fact: the Serdang tree, a type of palm mainly grown near the swamps of Kota Belud, provides the sturdy leaves essential for crafting! 

 

Harvested in their youth, these leaves are dried and dyed into a variety of vivid colours, including canary yellow, dark purple, fuchsia, and lime green transforming from pale beige rusticity to stunning handicrafts such as traditional food covers, baskets, and boxes. 

Weaving the Tudung Duang: A Step-by-Step Journey

It’s remarkable that all these products are purely handmade without any machine involvement, showcasing the unique intricacy of these Serdang boxes.

1. Prepare the Materials 

  • Box
  • Nipah leaves 
  • Dyed Serdang leaves 
  • Scissors 
  • Metal wire 
  • Needle
  • Rice sack (for threading)
  • Karis-karis (purple and ivory white decorative elements that conceals the stitches and serves as a handle on the Tudung Duang)

 

2. Setting the Foundation

  • With meticulous care, Artini outlines and cuts the box to perfection, ensuring the base will hold the treasures it’s meant to carry.
  • The Nipah leaves, cut into slender strips, are poised for their transformation from raw material to woven masterpiece.

 

3. Bringing Nature to Life

  • Using a needle and strips of the rice bag for threading, Artini weaves together approximately 20 Nipah leaf strips on the inner part of the Tudung Duang to solidify its main body. 
  • This woven foundation is then attached and sewn along the inner rim of the Tudung Duang, removing the extra edges of the Nipah leaves that stick out.

 

 

4. Adding Layers of Meaning 

  • Dyed Serdang leaves, each colour a reflection of festive spirit and cultural significance, are carefully cut into various sizes.
  • Shorter leaves find their place along the base, meticulously sewn to ensure durability and aesthetic harmony.
  • Layer by layer, longer leaves ascend, creating a mesmerising cascade that captures the eye and spirit alike.

 

5. A Labour of Love

  • Every loose end is meticulously sewn, every detail attended to with reverence for the craft and the heritage it embodies.
  • It’s not just about finishing touches but about honouring the legacy passed down through generations — a testament to patience, skill, and a deep respect for tradition.

 

Embracing Heritage: Beyond the Craft

More than mere items, the Tudung Duang and Serdang gift boxes embody the rich cultural heritage of the Bajau people. These crafts celebrate a heritage that spans generations, reflecting the deep connection to nature and the communal values cherished by the Bajau community. Each piece crafted with passion and expertise, tells a story—not just of craftsmanship, but of connection. What’s more, it connects us to the traditions upheld by the Bajau, who have thrived in harmony with their environment for centuries.

 

A Tapestry of Tradition

In a world where trends come and go, the art of making Tudung Duang stands as a testament to continuity and heritage. Moreover, it reminds us that the simplest materials, when crafted with care and intention, become cherished pieces of cultural significance. As we celebrate the beauty of these local handicrafts, we honour the artisans and communities who keep its timeless artistry alive.

 

Furthermore, it’s important to note that these traditions are gradually disappearing as fewer young craftsmen choose to continue them. Therefore, supporting local craftsmanship not only helps sustain their livelihoods but also preserves these invaluable cultural heritages within their communities.

 

If you’re curious to explore more, Kadaiku offers a variety of Tudung Duang and Serdang gift boxes. They are perfect for sharing the beauty and heritage of Sabah with your loved ones. Be sure to pop by today! 

 

 

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Stay tuned for our next handicraft series – the Kelarai. Just as the Tudung Duang embodies Sabah’s rich cultural tapestry, the Kelarai intricately weaves together stories of resilience and creativity. 

 

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