KENINGAU: While often overlooked, the handicraft industry is a valuable lifeline for many people living in areas dependent on tourism.
After all, visitors are likely to purchase handicrafts to remember their trip, giving locals a means of securing an honest income.
Additionally, the handicraft industry also helps to preserve local culture, with the continued production of local textiles and ceramics.
When visiting Sabah, one spot where you can find all the knick-knacks you could ever want is the Pusat Kraftangan Sabah (PKS), the epicentre of the state’s growing handicraft industry.
Partly a gallery and partly a manufactory, PKS is worth a visit, whether you are a solo traveller or are leading a large tour group.
In addition to offering a large variety of handicrafts for sale, this place gives you valuable insight into how these products are made.
The idea for the centre was first conceived in 2010, with the objective to boost Sabah’s fledgling but promising handicraft industry.
The centre recruits and trains locals, especially unemployed women, to become artisans, via the handicraft-making courses taught here.
PKS also collaborates with local universities in the cultivation of Sabahan rattan and bamboo; both are vital in handicraft production.
If you wander to the rear of the main building, you can find the centre’s nursery and even learn a thing or two there.
What’s there to do for a visitor though? There are three galleries in the centre, namely the Textile Gallery, the Handicraft Gallery and the Digital Gallery.
The Textile Gallery is worth exploring if you’re into all things fashion, as this part of the centre focuses on Sabah’s unique sense of style.
Here, you can see the various classic outfits of Sabah’s indigenous people, as well as modernised takes which still incorporate traditional elements.
The Handicraft Gallery houses all that Sabah has to offer in terms of ceramics, weaving, furniture and glassware.
If you are fond of collecting kitschy stuff from the places you visit, this gallery should give you an idea of what you ought to bring home.
And the Digital Gallery is where you can see local artisans incorporating modern technology in the manufacture of traditional products.
It used to take lots of time and effort to make quality clothes back in the day, but industrial printers and dryers have rendered the process faster and more efficient.
Aside from the galleries, visitors can pop into the workshops there, where you can find artisans hard at work.
From batik to fridge magnets, you can buy these handicrafts fresh off the production line as well as ask the artisans about their work.
And if you wish to try your hand at it, you actually can! There are handicraft-making booths set up for visitors, for a small price.
Consider yourself a painter? Have a go at painting premade but uncoloured batik with any colours you so desire.
Have nimble fingers? Try out weaving and see what you get. And if you want something easier, feel free to stick with colouring fridge magnets.
And of course, once you’re done with your own masterpiece, you are free to bring your finished handicraft back home with you.
Should you not feel confident about making your own, just stop by the centre’s gift shop, where crafts are sold at reasonable prices.
Either way, a trip to PKS is definitely worth your time, given how it supports local Sabahans and affords you a chance to learn something new and fun yourself.
Pusat Kraftangan Sabah
Jalan Apin-Apin, KM5,
89007 Keningau, Sabah
Operating hours: 8am-5pm (Mondays-Fridays)
Contact: 87 332186/ 87 332185