The Forgotten Rattanware

BATU PAHAT, Johor: Have you heard about a "mother-child chair" or a"rattan rocking horse"?

They might be unfamiliar terms for young people today, but are actually laden with unlimited childhood memories for people who are now in their middle age.

During the 60’s and 70’s, rattan products were seen as major household necessities. Mother-and-child chairs, rattan rocking horses, rattan chairs, rattan cradles and so on were essential items for all the mothers who had toddlers at home.

That said, it seems that rattan products have slowly faded into oblivion due do the increased popularity of plastic products.

Xie Li Rattan Shop in Batu Pahat is the only remaining rattan shop in town still selling rattan products. Its 52-year-old owner, Zheng Yi-chang took over the business from his father in 1977.

Zheng said during an interview with Sin Chew Daily that since his father came from Shantou, China to Malaysia in the 1950’s, he had set up his own rattan shop along Jalan Engan.

He and four of his brothers had been very much influenced by his father, and three of them have since dedicated themselves to this industry.

Two his brothers are now retired, leaving him alone to go on with this trade.

The heyday of rattanware

Zheng said that the 1960’s and 70’s were the heyday of rattanware and there were a total of seven rattan shops in his neighbourhood at that time.

Unfortunately the public, especially the Chinese, have later switched to plastic products which boast modern designs and cheaper prices.

He also said rattan making industry was facing steady decline due to the short supply of rattan. The price of rattan has doubled over the past ten years, and this results in his rattan products becoming costlier today.

Zheng said most local rattan had been supplied by the Orang Asli villages in Pahang but as more and more of them chose to walk out of the jungle and worked in factories or plantations, the supply of rattan dwindled.

More expensive but lasting

Zheng said although rattan products were more expensive, they were more durable compared to the plastic ones.

He said a normal rattan chair would cost about RM20 while a large rattan rocking chair would cost around RM200. In general, the time needed to make a rattan product would depend very much on the complexity of each work, and it takes just about half an hour to complete a simple rattan basket.

Apart from that, Zheng is also providing rattan repair services for his customers including those coming from other places, as it is hard to get someone who really has the skills to fix a broken rattan product in many places nowadays.

He lamented that none of his four daughters was keen to inherit his business.

Source: Sin Chew

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Teresa L said...

There is a small shop along old klang road that sells rattan furniture. They still hand make the furniture. I think the shop is at the 3rd mile. I found some good rattan furniture there.

HY said...

Yeah, I know where the shop is. Its small and there are not many varieties. Better go to gombak.

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