- Do you have a physical store I can visit?
- Can I choose another courier? I have issues with the one you are using.
- How much of the proceeds actually go to the Penan?
- Who are the Penan people?
- Why are most of the craft made of plastic?
- Why are all the items shown with only ONE in stock? My friend wants the same bag I am buying!
Q: Do you have a physical store I can visit?
A: It depends on what you mean by a physical store! We do not have a shop with regular business hours in a commercial shopping area, as it is the only way for us to keep the costs down. We prefer not to have to pass on to you the cost of rental, utilities, renovations and staff wages! However, due to constant requests from regular customers to visit our home to view bags, we decided to turn one of our bedrooms into a small ‘home shop’. As it is in our own home, visits are BY PRIOR APPOINTMENT ONLY, and are subject to our availability. We are in Tanjung Bungah, Penang Island, Malaysia.
Q: Can I choose another courier? I have issues with the one you are using.
A: You could make arrangements for your own courier to pick up your purchases, but it will have to be your own initiative.
Q: How much of the proceeds actually go to the Penan?
A: More than 2/3 the price you pay for your Penan bag goes directly into the hands of the weaver who made your bag.
1/5 of the price goes to us as home-based entrepreneurs, for our efforts and costs to store, stock code, measure, sell, entertain queries, pack purchases and post them. You might have noticed that every bag and basket is slightly different, and we almost never have more than 1 item on the same stock code, which means we deal with 100s of unique bags which all need to be individually stock coded, photographed and measured!
The remainder goes to the high cost of logistics, which involves tedious journeys on the back of a 4×4, being transported into Brunei (where most of the volunteers are based) for storage, sale and sorting, and being posted to us in Penang.
Q: Who are the Penan people?
A: The Penan are a semi-nomadic tribe who call the forested region of the upper Baram in northern Sarawak their home. They are a gentle people, whose simple ways of life still manage to embody elusive values such as a deep and spiritual respect for nature, never taking more than they immediately need, as well as a strong sense of sharing, with very little emphasis on individual and material ownership. They possess a vast knowledge of the rainforest, especially its healing and medicinal powers, and are skilled weavers and craftsmen, producing fine bags and baskets, even spears and blowpipes.
However, rampant logging taking place in their ancestral forests has greatly devastated their ability to sustain themselves from nature. Due to this, they are indeed a people at a crossroads. Various efforts by NGOs over the years have attempted to improve the wellbeing of the Penan, with efforts ranging from provision of essentials, to installing piped water supply and solar lighting, but most importantly, efforts to empower the young Penan via education up to tertiary levels, and economically empowering Penan women via the production and sale of Penan bags and baskets.
Q: Why are most of the craft made of plastic?
A: The difficulty in obtaining sufficient natural materials in the vicinity of their villages and homes is the main reason. Due to the difficulty and the time taken in sourcing natural materials, the cost of craft made from rattan and other suitable materials are noticeably higher, and much more difficult to market.
Do be aware though, that these bags are crafted from extremely durable PVC fibre, and many loyal customers have related their stories of how well the bags last, and how durable they have been despite regular and heavy usage! Since they are plastic, they can be easily washed, and do not rot. The colours also stay vibrant for a very long time!
Q: Why are all the items shown with only ONE in stock? My friend wants the same bag I am buying!
A: The unique thing about these handcrafted Penan bags is that they are all slightly different, sometimes a bit wider or narrower, sometimes the pattern slightly smaller or higher, etc. We feel this emphasises the uniqueness of each item sold – your bag is probably one of a kind! Therefore the unique SKU (stock code) per item reflects this reality.
Also, it is a great insight into the beautiful ways of the Penan, who are perhaps shielded from the monotony and downsides of the mass-production mentality many of us are conditioned with, something for us to seriously reflect on in our world today.