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The Penan are an ethnic group of nomadic forest hunters that live mostly in Sarawak but they
can be also found in small numbers in Brunei and Kalimantan. They have traditionally lived a
nomadic life in the forests but only a few maintain such lifestyle as most of Penans have settled
in longhouses provided by the government.
The Penan are also known as Punan, Poenan, Poonan and Pounan. The word “punan” means
“”to gather”, “to collect” or “to assemble things”.
The Penan are noted for their practice of 'molong' which means never taking more than
Geographically separated by the Baram River, they are recognized by two groups which is the
East Penan and West Penan. It is believed that are around 70 Penan groups that exist today
with a total population of between 10,000 and 15,000 with only an estimated 300 still living a
completely nomadic life. The Penan have traditionally lived alongside other groups rather than
in their own distinct territory. Some of the last groups of nomads are found in Gunung Mulu
National Park in Sarawak.
Over the last thirty years, Malaysia has seen rapid development and this includes Sarawak. The
Penan way of life has seen threats from extensive logging of their traditional hunting grounds, oil
exploration and drilling near their rivers and as well as the spread of palm oil and timber
plantations. For decades the Penan people have seen their customary forests felled for logging,
plantations, dams, roads, and other big infrastructure projects.
With these effects of development, the younger generation have moved to the city for a better
life and to seek better job opportunities. While others have stayed on, started and maintained
cottage industries or home crafts.
These small businesses not only feature the Penan traditional items but also provide income
and create jobs within their community.
Some of the unique products are hand woven bracelets, mats, coasters, baskets and bags.
Come and visit Hornbill Crafts (link) today to check out more of the Penan bags. Durable yet
elegant and easily matched with any outfit, these waterproof and sturdy bags are ready to assist
in your outings and errands.
Not only are they colourfully pleasing to the eye, their beautiful motifs and patterns will definitely
attract a purchase.
Shop local, support local!
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