Beads at Rainforest World Music Festival

  • Craft Bazaar 2018
  • Tango: Iban lady shawl
  • Orang Ulu with a beads headband
  • Colourful and unique Bead necklaces
  • A variety of Beads at Rainforest World Music Festival
  • Wiker baskets and more at the Rainforest nght bazaar
  • beads conference sarawak borneo

A variety of Beads at Rainforest World Music Festival

Are you familiar with beads? Have you ever come across ancient ones? Generally, beads are well-known objects the world over. Some of them are believe to have existed for over 100,000 years! They are usually employed as small decorative objects and come in variety types of shapes, sizes and colour. Beads can be made up of stone, bone, shell, glass, plastic, wood and pearl, and are later collaged together with threads or strings. Despite being previously mostly known as jewellery, beads in modern times are more related to art and craft.   

Orang Ulu with a beads headband

History tells us that the use of beads indicated social status, wealth and power amongst the natives of Borneo. Narrowing it down to the Sarawak area, original beads there were made out of wood, shell, stone, glass, wild boar and leopard teeth and also bones. It can be said that beads in Sarawak are quite unique as they are related with the region several ethnic groups. The ethnic influence played a major part in the pattern and technique of beads making, with each ethnic groups having different patterns and meaning of their beads, commonly used as jewellery and also sawn into traditional clothing.

Tango: Iban lady shawl

To give you a few examples, beads in Iban communities – Iban is the largest ethnic group in Sarawak – are used in a traditional piece of clothing (Ngepan Iban) called Tango.  A tango is worn on a lady’s shoulder and is an essential part of women traditional dress. Bidayuh ethnic group uses beads as the necklaces, while the Orang Ulu group mostly uses beads in headbands, traditional dresses, hats and accessories such as reed baskets. Most of these beads are worn by natives during Gawai Festival.

The yearly Kuching Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is mainly a celebration for culture, and as beads and culture are inseparable, the festival Craft Bazaar showcases a great range of beads made ad used by Sarawak indigenous people. There you can see both beads belonging to the past, and beads used in modern times, sawn onto handbags and modern times clothings.

Craft Bazaar 2018

I am a local and I have visited Rainforest World Music Festival craft bazaar every year in the past five years. I admit I really admire the beads made by my own ethnic people. Sure, the variety of beads around the world is quite wide, but Borneo beads design and colours and patters are so unique, you will not be able to find a match anywhere else. Similarities perhaps many, but never exactly the same. In fact, Sarawak takes the beads business quite seriously by organising a Beads Conference: – This internationally acclaimed Beads Conference has seen many countries participating over the years, and is highly recommended for those who love beads, or want to know more about them. There will also be a special craft bazaar in conjunction with this event, showcasing many traditional and contemporary beaded jewellery on sale.

Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is back this year from 12 to 14 July – for tickets and program click HERE. This will be your chance to visit the Craft Bazaar, open daily from 10,30 am to 8,30 pm, and grab some interesting specimen. For Sarawak Tourism Board website and events, click on  Unique Sarawak beads are waiting for you!

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About the author

Cato is a young woman, passionate writer, and a loving mother from Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Cato gained a Master's Degree with honours in Social Science majoring in Communication Studies at the University Malaysia Sarawak - UNIMAS. After a long spell as a full-time reporter writing for TV and Radio news in Borneo and beyond, she is currently a Senior Marketing in a private firm practicing writing, public relations as well as marketing. She is also a regular and passionate contributor at Asian Itinerary. Cato is a dynamic woman with several interests and hobbies such as travelling, listening to music, playing guitar, reading, hiking, kayaking and surfing the Internet. She is a young promise in the travel-writing world, and one of the main exponents of Asian Itinerary.

View all articles by Catohrinner Joyce Guri