KOTA KINABALU: Officially it is called the Handicraft Market, but on the streets it is known as the Filipino Market.
It was built by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the 1970s to give Filipino refugees the means to earn a living. Over the years it has become a popular tourist haunt for its handicraft.
Most of the traders are now Malaysians and some immigrants have become citizens. Though many of the products are made in Sabah, the perception remains that it sells mainly foreign crafts.
Kraftangan Malaysia chairman Datuk Seri Salleh Said wants to change this and promote local crafts more aggressively and improve their quality.
"We must fight the perception that our products are not as good as handicrafts from other countries. We must show that we do in fact produce high quality craftwork.
"Our crafts are our heritage. This is why we organise promotional campaigns every year. We want our industry to grow into one that can compete globally."
He was launching the fourth leg of the nationwide Kraftangan Malaysia Batik and Tenun Promotion at the 1Borneo Hypermall recently.
He said the batik and weaving industry recorded sales of about RM73 million in 2007, which was about a third of handicraft sales which totalled RM243 million.
"This is a big industry, and we need to look into improving production and promoting it globally, while maintaining high quality.
"We need to engage masters of the crafts to teach the younger generation, introduce modern technology into the production systems and organise more promotional campaigns."
A total of 50 handicraft entrepreneurs are taking part in the exhibition. Sabah is the fourth state to host the campaign. Eight similar events will be held by November. The first was held in Selangor last month. - NST.