TASIKMALAYA HANDICRAFTS GO WORLDWIDE
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 01/30/2000 7:36 AM | Life
TASIKMALAYA, West Java (JP):
The overseas market for handicraft products from Tasikmalaya is experiencing terrific expansion.
“”Dutch and American women are very attracted to bags made from plaited pandanus leaves,”” said Haj Sahudin, showing off a number of such bags.
The owner of the Pandan Jaya handicraft workshop in Manggungsari village,about 15 kilometers west of Tasikmalaya, employs scores of craftsmen. Sahudin buys raw material in the form of rara, i.e. pandanus leaves three to four millimeters in width and with a length of one meter. For the insideof the bags, the width of the leaves can reach eight millimeters.
The wet pandanus leaves are boiled in water and left to soak overnight, before being dried out the next day. The drying process is a vital step in obtaining the best material for the bags.
The leaves are purchased from middlemen from outside the region. The leaves are sold to local craftsmen, who sell their semifinished products back to the middlemen.
Plaited pandanus leaves are not the only products Sahudin exports to the Netherlands and the U.S. “”Last month we sent one container of ijuk (palm fiber) brooms to the two countries,”” he said.
Tasikmalaya exports a dazzling variety of handicraft products. They include wooden sandals and small wooden chairs, embroidery products and angklung instruments, typical Sundanese musical instruments made of bamboo. Most exported handicraft products from the area use pandanus, bamboo and mendong as raw materials. Thes three types of plants are readily found in the region. Bamboo and pandanus grow in the fields and require no special care. Mendong grows in swampy areas and wet ricefields. It is a kind of wild grass with a height of more than one meter and a width of about 0.5 centimeters.
New Designs to Seize Market Opportunities*
Villagers in the Tasikmalaya region have long used the three plants for making handicrafts. Kitchenware like rice containers are made of plaited bamboo, and the rural Sundanese population uses plaited bamboo for the walls of their houses. Pandanus and mendong leaves serve as the raw materials for mats.
In the beginning the handicraft products from the region were only made using traditional methods. “”We continued the traditions of our parents,”” said Ibu Simah, a craftswoman from Rajapolah.
Like the majority of the craftspeople, Simah has a limited formal education, which ended after grade school. She learned plaiting from her parents, who made handicrafts from plaited bamboo and pandanus. The handicraft work is done in her spare time, after she finishes working in the ricefield.
The handicraft products are generally goods with low economic value. In order to develop handicraft products with added value, the West Java branchof the Industrial Agency and National Handicraft Council is endeavoring to introduce new designs to the craftspeople. “”In order to seize market opportunities, the designs of the handicraft products must meet the consumers’ tastes, the quality must comply with the prevailing standards and the prices must be reasonable,”” said Mrs. H.R. Nuriana, chairwoman of the West Java branch of the agency.
This means that the prices must not only be suitable for consumers, but also feasible for the craftspeople. Handicraft goods are produced in nearlyall regions in West Java, but Nuriana thinks the handicrafts in Tasikmalayaare the most varied. She also believes these handicrafts have the potentialto be developed into a profitable business.
Contributing factors to this potential are the variety of the area’s art and culture, the skill of the craftspeople and the richness of the surrounding environment, which provides the needed raw materials. Besides, Tasikmalaya handicraft products are generally well-known in the market, at home as well as abroad.
“”A survey has shown that despite the economic crisis, the majority of craftspeople have been able to survive,”” she said.
Many of these craftspeople have even experienced an increase in turnover and profit. This is especially true for craftspeople with a hand in foreignmarkets. Also, because the majority of the raw materials needed for the products are found in the surrounding area, the handicrafts are more competitive.
The Golfers in Japan Use the Pandanus Hats from Tasikmalaya*
Tasikmalaya is located about 105 kilometers east of Bandung. The region has long been a center of handicraft production. Embroidery is done in 25 villages, mendong handicraft in 20 villages, bamboo handicraft in 18 villages and pandanus handicraft in 10 villages.
Additionally there are craftspeople making handicraft products from wood.Wooden sandals, for example, have long since succeeded in winning the hearts of women. Given the added touch of special designs for the sandals, they have been able to penetrate foreign markets.
Formerly, plaited pandanus and mendong leaves were only used to make sleeping mats, especially in rural areas. The type and design of the mats did not undergo any changes for years, and eventually they began to lose their market to factory-made plastic mats. But now, plaited pandanus leavesare being used to create other types of goods. With less raw material, plaited pandanus leaves are turned into beauty cases, women’s bags and manyother items.
Many people would not believe that the pandanus hats used by golfers in Japan, are the products of craftsmen in Rajapolah. The craftsmen make semi-finished products and sell them to a factory for final processing.
With local raw materials the Tasikmalaya craftspeople are capable of creating just about any type of product. Plaited mendong leaves are made into hampers, stationery containers, etc. Even the walini grass which growswild in swampy areas, after being processed into packing material for liquor bottles, can be exported to Italy.
Tasikmalaya Handicrafts Go Worldwide*
In the 1998/1999 period, the export of handicraft products from this region amounted to more than Rp 2.573 billion. The products were exported to the U.S., Japan, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia and a number of other European countries. However, the export figures do not quite reflect the actual situation. A number of suppliers say they send their products for export through contacts in Jakarta or Bali.
As evidenced by the export figures and the number of destination countries, the interest from abroad in these products is sizable. Embroidered clothes from the area are big sellers in the Middle East.
“”Every month we send one container of embroidered clothes to the Middle East,”” said a supplier.
Another supplier is preparing an order of four containers of stationery articles made of mendong leaves. “”Britain has ordered office equipment madeof mendong,”” Rajapolah said.
Suppliers purchase the handicraft products from the craftspeople, who do not have direct contact with the foreign buyers. It is the exporters in Jakarta and Bali who send the handicraft products to destinations abroad.
Greater opportunities have yet to be created to make full use of the potential afforded by the wide availability of raw materials. Tasikmalaya and the other regions of West Java have vast areas of land for the cultivation of bamboo, pandanus and mendong plants. This potential has so far not been fully developed because making handicraft products is considered a side job.
This attitude has led to a lack of interest in handicraft products by designers, so these goods rarely take on new and exciting designs. This is to be regretted because the three types of raw materials used in the area are flexible enough to accommodate almost all shapes and designs.
- Subtitle by GS.