For generations, women artisans across Indonesia have been creating unique weaves from locally sourced materials. Weaving traditions can be traced as far back as pre-colonial era where remnants of handwoven mats were found along other historical items, further defining its importance as a part of our Indonesian heritage and identity.
Different forms of beautiful Nusantara weaves are still being made today for many of us to enjoy. The Papuan women are known to weave out Noken baskets made from barks of trees. In East Nusa Tenggara, women weavers make Sobe, three-dimensional traditional baskets using palmyra leaves. From South Kalimantan, we have Bakul Purun, which are traditional containers and bags made from purun plants.
Purun, The Gem of South Kalimantan Peatlands
Purun are long grass-like plants, growing naturally in peatlands that are abundant in South Kalimantan. The art of purun weaving has long been culturally significant to their local communities. It is a heritage handcraft due to the versatility of the material which can be woven into various shapes and functionality.
But, that has been changing. Drainage, burning and mining, commercial forestry or agricultural conversion, and other forms of severe exploitations have been progressively threatening peatlands over the years. This is no exception to the peatlands of South Kalimantan, with data showing 60% of the total area being damaged as of 2018.
Peatlands, which are natural wet areas dominated with accumulation of peats or organic matters, mostly vegetation, are critical in preserving global flora and fauna biodiversity, minimize flood risk, provide clean water, reduce greenhouse effects and more. Peatlands are highly significant to global efforts to combat climate change.
Since large amounts of carbon are locked away in peat soils, they also help address climate change. When damaged, peatlands have the potential to release an estimated 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 annually. As a comparison, the recorded annual carbon emission in Jakarta is around 200 million tonnes. In other words, the impact will be 6.500 times worse than what we as urbanites have already faced in recent years.
To ensure that peatlands continue to thrive and are safe from destruction, it is imperative to engage the local community as the key guardians in every possible way.
Traditional Weaving & Solving Global Environment Issues
The Peat Restorative Agency, tasked to coordinate and facilitate peatland hydrological restoration due to excessive burning and drainage, has recently partnered with Du Anyam to work with weaving communities located in four villages of Hulu Sungai Utara, South Kalimantan – Pulantani, Tambak Sari Panji, Murung Panggang and Tuhuran.
Du Anyam is a social enterprise that has been working with women weaver communities since 2014 in over 54 rural villages in East Nusa Tenggara & Papua. Through comprehensive training, upskilling, mentoring and capacity building programs for local women weavers, the heritage handcrafts received positive responses from the national and international markets, and was selected as the official Asian Games merchandiser in 2018.
Du Anyam is now working alongside purun weaving artisans to co-create and promote modern, well-designed, practical products that aim to serve and appeal to the B2B as well as retail customers, to increase its product value and to expand the market, generating a stable income for purun weavers.
In the hope to create more peatland advocates, rural and urban, young and mature, other than innovative multi-purpose Purun weaved collections, Du Anyam is producing a Purun children’s story book, to educate the whole family. The Children’s book will also be available free to the purun weaving community, to reinforce and instill pride in them as bold guardians of the peatlands.
Protecting Them Is Protecting All Of Us
When we talk about peatlands protection, it’s undeniable that the local community are important stakeholders. The dream is that every purun weaver in South Kalimantan can believe in the value of their hand-weaving creations, and that purun weaving becomes a viable economic activity for them, thereby getting their active support to protect the wetlands from land misuse and burning.
When these women artisans see how purun crafts can be used as corporate gifts or baskets as elegant home decors, the desire to further empower themselves while caring for peatlands will come hand in hand naturally. For this to work, it has to start where it matters. Climate change is a global issue, and protecting peatlands is very much the job for all of us. Support the use of purun products today and together weave a better tomorrow for our children.
As published on Indonesia Expat 3 September 2020