What is Gerai OA?
Gerai OA, founded by Reita Rahim in October 2004, is a volunteer-run traveling “shop” that sells traditional crafts made by the Malaysian ethnic group: Orang Asal. 100% of the money collected of sales goes directly back to the artisans.
Who are the Orang Asal/Asli?
‘Orang Asal/Asli’ is a Malay term for ‘original people’. Orang Asal represents the indigenous people (2.1 million) of Peninsular and East Malaysia, while Orang Asli (149,512) refers to the minorities of Peninsular Malaysia. They have their own religion, language and customs and they are determined to transmit them to future generations. The Orang Asal have a special relationship to their traditional land, but one of the main threats they face is the “non-recognition of their rights to traditional land” since it has gradually been taken for development. They are not against modernisation, this is only because they are not recognised as indigenous people of this land.
How does it work?
The founder of Gerai OA, Reita Rahim, goes from village to village of 17 different ethnic groups around Malaysia looking for rare and unique craft from talented craftsmen and women. While the woodcarving is done only by the Mah Meri men, the women have shown their own skills with weaving and beading, especially women from Sabah.
The items are then taken to Kuala Lumpur and sales are carried out at rent-free events or in sponsored spaces (like the National Art Gallery), also between private and public functions at hotels, educational institutions and art galleries.
The 100% transfer of funds is possible because it is run by a group of volunteers that pledge to work for free (moving stalls, carrying merchandise, driving, promoting, etc) and they absorb operational costs.
“Help indigenous communities help themselves. It is not just about selling, it is about educating people” – Reita Rahim.
To document, revive and revitalise and encourage the survival of the heritage crafts of the Orang Asal via sales, workshops, publications, books or DVDs by or about the Orang Asal.
In addition to sales, Gerai OA extended its services to organizing workshops for and with various Orang Asal craftspeople. In June 2007, with the funding from the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme, Gerai OA organized a three day Pandanus Masterclass. Twenty four weavers from six Orang Asli ethnic groups and two indigenous weavers from the Philippines attended the workshop in Bidor, Perak. The workshop was so successful that it helped improve the production of crafts. Consequently, they now have a wider variety of pandanus crafts with a new range of colours and better quality.
Gerai OA works with a group of 20 women headed by designer Malina Soning, from the Rungus people of Sabah. They work together to come up with new designs, colours and patterns to keep up with the current trends in bracelets, necklaces and rings made with ceramic beads. Malina explained that the need for these new innovations is to compete for the tough market where mass produced items can be bought at much lower prices and also, to better suit the Kuala Lumpur market.
Innovative Crafts by the Orang Asal people:
Alphabetical pandanus bookmarks woven by the Mah Meri. Designed in 2011 by Kamarul Ramat (18) & his sister, Pijay (20).
From Kg Peralong: Temiar bubu pacik (translated as ‘pregnant’ fish traps) made by Angah Anjang (60).
Saimoi’s kurong serindit cages
From Kg Toguson in Kota Belud, which specialises in crafts made with “timbagan” barkcloth. Wallets & pouches by Okot Pongandai (55).
From the Jakun villages: pandanus “kerton kaki jangking” 3-in-1 nesting containers by Salbiah Teh (30) from Kg Simpai.
Where to find Gerai OA?
Reita Faida Rahim at +6019 751 8686.