J.W. Sam is intent on taking local craftsmanship international.
For the past couple of years, technopreneur J.W. Sam has been at the forefront of pushing for digital adoption in his native Sarawak. It is through this that Sam who spent a significant of time abroad was able to discover the vast interiors of Sarawak. While doing this, he became aware of the beauty of the artistry that had yet to be discovered in many of these areas.
One such area was Kampung Tanam in Dalat. To get there one would have to travel through modes of transportation – air, land and water. But Sam describes it as a “small, magical place” where he discovered the Tapou ladies who are proficient in the making of sun hats (Sera’o).
The craft, however, was diminishing and Sam with his team embarked on a project that was aimed at taking the artistry to the next well. This involved working with the community to help modernize the design and make it appealing to an international market. The goal, he says, it to retain the identity yet provide added value by making the products visible to the rest of the world.
“I decided to work with them in order to create new branches of products to tap into new markets while still maintained the original identity of their heritage but in a new light.”
(Pictured: J.W. Sam showcasing the creations by SERAO/DALAT)
This, he explains, will ensure the longevity of the product and prevent the art form from eroding. Now instead of being confined to hats, there are a range of products that are available, inspired by the Sera’o design. These include ties, scarves and fabric.
At the launch in 2020, Sam described the Tapou ladies as having a flair for creativity and art. Now, with the technical and business support provided by his company, he believes that there are more opportunities for the art form.
The products now bear the SERAO/DALAT brand. SERAO, derived from Sera’o, the hat which personifies the heritage of the Melanau people. It is further stated that the goal of establishing the brand is to “reimagine the timeless arts and vibrant culture of the village people,” as stated in the brand’s Instagram page. It is about “connecting communities and bridging societies regardless of time and space.”
It is also about encouraging female empowerment, from the products are created to the causes that the brand supports. Through its creations, SERAO/DALAT encourage women to embrace their individuality and support each other.
For further information on SERAO/DALAT, visit their Instagram page at @seraodalat