Nancy Betie, 48, from Rumah Panjang Sungai Engkabang in Betong, shows the "mini tanggu" that sits on the tuak bottle as the top selling item at the at 6th Borneo International Beads Conference. -- NSTP/GOH PEI PEI

KUCHING: The traditional costume of an Iban woman will not be complete without a piece of beaded collar known as ‘tanggu’, worn around the shoulder.

Housewife Nancy Betie said the outer garment usually consisted of a combination of beads in red, black, yellow and white, and ‘pom-poms’ (handmade cotton ornamental balls).

The traditional costume is used during important occasions such as wedding and Gawai celebration and traditional dance performances, she said.

The 48-year-old picked up her skills from her mother when she was 18 years old.

It is something that every young woman would be taught at the longhouse, either by their grandmother, mother or older aunties and relatives, she said.

“In the past, I made it as a hobby or as a gift for our friends and families. But I started selling it in recent years,” she said when met at the 6th Borneo International Beads Conference held here today.

Nancy, from Rumah Panjang Sungai Engkabang in Betong, said five women, aged between 30 and 50, from her longhouse started to receive orders from the owner of Ranee Artisan Gallery.

“Rosemarie Wong (the owner of the gallery) also gave us some advise on how to combine traditional arts and modern contemporary designs.

“She will help us to market, promote and sell our products in her gallery and online platforms,” Nancy said, adding that Wong also gave her an idea to make “mini tanggu” to decorate the bottle of the “tuak” – the Dayak’s rice wine.

Although it is a miniature size, it requires three days to complete one, including making the “pom-pom”.

Priced at RM25 each, the colourful “mini tanggu” is the top selling item with tourists who buy it as souvenir while the locals use it for home decoration.

Apart from that, she produces other accessories, purses and beaded necklaces that carry the unique identity of her community.

Nancy believes there is a need to work closely with the private and public sectors to promote and preserve the traditional handicraft and costumes of various ethnic groups in Sarawak.

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