Project Team: Marianne McAra, Wendy Teo, Gamia Dewanggamanik and Lynn-Sayers McHattie

Serumpun: crafts across borders

Project Exhibition
Borneo Cultures Museum
3rd – 7th December 2023

Today craft communities across South East Asia are facing a range of complex challenges. From climate change to increased youth migration, there is the need to find new ways to protect craft practices to pass onto future generations. The C&VM project is a collaboration between The Borneo Laboratory and TheGlasgow School of Art, funded by The British Council and the InternationalCollaboration Award. Over the last year, C&VM has supported 11 craft projects undertaken individually and collaboratively by artisans, practitioners and initiatives from across Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan. Each project in this collection has explored a sustainability challenge through experimenting with new materials, ways of making and ways of sharing:

  • Changing Landscapes and Materials: Climate change is having a direct impact on raw materials used in craft. Landscapes across Borneo are changing in ways that do not support nature resources to grow and thrive. Deforestation and land clearing are also leading to material shortages, forcing craft practitioners and artisans to adapt and explore the use of alternative ways of making that are in harmony with nature.
  • Artisanal Trade: Opportunities to enter craft markets are not equal, particularly for women and young people. Factors such as access to education, training and financial support can impact the choices and livelihoods of craft practitioners and artisans. 
  • Innovation: Craft production is changing. In places, large scale and low-cost manufacturing and imports are replacing traditional ways of making craft by hand. In response to this competition, craft practitioners and artisans are innovating ways of making, exploring new materials to create unique products and adapting how they promote and sell their work. 
  • Documentation: Traditional practices and ancestral wisdom are at risk of being lost in today’s craft industry. New ways of recording and archiving craft processes are vital to protect and safeguard these knowledges for future generations.    
  • Youth Engagement: Supporting and motivating young people to engage with and preserve craft practices is becoming increasingly challenging. This is because knowledges and skills are often not seen to be as relevant now as they were in the past. There is the need to explore new ways for older generations to educate and inspire young people to value and possibly take up craft-based careers.

Emily Jeneble, Crafts Practitioner from Keningau, Sabah. Photograph Source: Wendy Teo and Gamia Dewanggamanik (2022).

Connecting these featured works are inspiring stories of innovation, creativity and education, which invite audiences to reflect both inwards on the deep wisdom and knowledges that live in the hands of craft practitioners and artisans, and forward towards sustainable futures. The 11 projects will be on display at the “Serumpun: crafts across borders” exhibition in December, the first community-based exhibition of its kind hosted at the Borneo Cultures Museum.

The title of the exhibition - “Serumpun” - means a bundle of grass that shares the same root. In this project, serumpun helps us convey how knowledges, wisdom and material cultures across the borders of Kalimantan, Sarawak and Sabah connect together as part of a wider ecosystem.

The Serumpun exhibition and events programme opens on the 3rd December. UK audiences can follow the action via GSA’s Instagram @glasgowschoolart @gsofa and the Borneo Lab’s Instagram: @BorneoLaboratory @Thinkandtink.kch


About the British Council: C&VM is funded by the British Council’s International Collaboration Grants, which are designed to support UK and overseas organisations to collaborate on international arts projects. The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. For more information, please visit:

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