A lady acquaintance who runs an NGO promoting traditional crafts of the indigenous people kept mentioning the name Raman to me after a few attempts to find out who can I go to get a parang handle and sheath made. After a few meetings with Raman, I have come to the conclusion that he is more than a craftsman; he is a real life teacher that specializes in jungle craft skills and knowledge.
To me, meeting an indigenous person like Raman who is passionate to share and impart knowledge of the jungle is like (finally) finding that wise long bearded old man at the top of the mountain. Originally from Cameron Highlands, Raman now resides in a small village in Gombak and works on a small piece of ‘Kebun’ or small farm that he refers to as his ‘cultural’ classroom. Here, Raman plants crops, medicinal herbs, dug two small ponds for rearing fish and builds huts in accordance to his people’s way of life.
I know for a fact there is a wealth of knowledge that Raman can share. But to do it alone over a few meetings is an impossible task. So, I gathered a group of friends and together we went for a one night camp at Raman’s Kebun (RK). We did not know what to expect, except that there will be a session by Raman on making ‘Simpeh’ a popular weave that can often be found around sheaths, blow pipes etc. As it turns out, we got more than what we bargained for.
Our visit to RK taught us many things. Not only were we taught how to make the Simpeh weave but we were also thought how to whittle or ‘Raut’ the rattan. Something that Raman does almost on a daily basis but got a few of us some nasty cuts after just a few tries. Raman handles his Raut knife like its second nature and he is able to even do carvings with it.
Our ‘class’ did not stop there. Raman proceeded to show us how he makes the roof of his hut by weaving palm leafs. This is such a beautiful skill and as important as putting a roof over your head…literally.
The jungle skill is not limited to just Raman. His wife is also an excellent teacher. She showed us how the Semais prepare rice in bamboo, chicken over fire and how to cut bamboo (neatly without cracking) for cooking.