BIBCo 2013 Logo

Introduction – Beads of Sarawak

The bead culture of Sarawak, part of a greater Malaysian heritage, is rooted in centuries of tradition. An ancient maritime trading network linked Sarawak to the world; the beads most treasured today came from production centres on the Malay Peninsula, India, China, and even further afield. In the hands of Sarawak’s craftwomen and collectors, these masterpieces of the glassmaker’s art became intrinsically ‘Borneo Beads.’


Location: Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Date: Friday 11th – Sunday 13th October 2013
Venue: Four Points by Sheraton, Kuching

Report on the Event

BIBCo 2013 – the third Borneo International Beads Conference – was held in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia from the 11th to the 13th October, 2013.

The academic component was of a very high standard; besides the excellent papers there was occasion for informal discussions, exchange of information, and making contacts. BIBCo 2013 had a much expanded workshop programme; local participants took turns at learning, and teaching, in an informal but well organized environment.

Speakers, workshop facilitators and participants were motivated, enthusiastic, and eager to learn and teach about bead lore and bead work.

Objectives of BIBCo

The main objectives of BIBCo are:

  • to improve the earning power of home-based cottage workers in Sarawak.
  • to preserve the Sarawak bead tradition in a commerically viable way
  • to encourage the production of top quality beads and beadwork in Sarawak
  • to promote competent modern design in beads and beadwork
  • to facilitate creative interaction between Sarawak’s artisans/designers and their international counterparts
  • to expose local artisans/designers to international bead scholars and researchers
  • to showcase the bead culture of Sarawak to regional/international audience
  • to promote ‘culture tourism’ Sarawak


BIBCo 2013 Programme

The final programme, including workshops, can be downloaded as pdf document here.

The programme of BIBCo 2013 was divided into three main parts:

  • Presentation of papers, and discussions on them
  • Workshops – hands-on teaching and learning with local and international facilitators
  • Beads Abuzz – exhibition/sales


Presentation of papers

The papers had been submitted before the date of the conference, and were distributed in printed form as the BIBCo Journal. Many international speakers and participants expressed pleasure to be able to get the papers, handsomely edited and bound, at the time of the conference.

There was one last-minute change in the speakers’ list: Akwele Suma Glory was prevented from attending, at very short notice. Her paper appears in the Journal, but was not presented at the conference. A versatile Malaysian material culture expert, Dr. Khatijah Sanusi, stepped into the breach with a paper on Nonya (Malaysian) traditional bead-worked slippers.


Panel of invited Speakers

Valerie Hector  Chinese Glass Bead Curtains
Valerie Hector is a professional jewelry designer whose primary materials are beads and precious metals. She has been researching mainland Chinese beadwork since 1997, and has made 12 trips to China. 
Akwele Suma Glory  African Powder Glass Beads
Akwele is a creative artist, based in Ghana, who uses and promotes beads in her works. She is connected with the Women’s Art Institute of Africa, and has shown her works both at home and internationally.
Very unfortunately, Akwele had to cancel her journey to Malaysia to participate in BIBCo 2013, but her paper is included in the BIBCo 2013 Journal.
Dr. Elaine Kim
Elaine Kim  Beads of Korea
Elaine Kim is Director of the World Jewelry Museum in Korea. She completed her academic education in the Netherlands. She has exhibited her own creations and curated exhibitions in Korea, China and Poland. 
Martina Dempf  Jewellery in Action – Examples from East Africa
Martina Dempf is a bijouterie designer and anthropologist, who has created some stunning ‘fusion’ jewelry combing organic materials and precious metals. She co-curated the international WCC jewelry exhibition in New Delhi 2011. 
Stefany Tomalin  Opulent Organic Beads
Stefany Tomalin is a founder member of the Bead Society of Great Britain. She is a designer, collector, author and retailer of antique and unusual beads and bead jewelry. 
Kathy Chen  Cultural Meanings of Paiwanese Beads (Taiwan)
Kathy Chen has just completed a research project on the beads of the native inhabitants of Taiwan, at Australian National University. 
Poline Bala  Kelabit Bead Values in a changing world
Poline Bala is Head of the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at University Malaysia Sarawak 
Su Chin Sidih  Beads in the Sabah Museum
Su Chin of Sabah Museum is a long-term student of traditions of her home State, specializing in sartorial culture and personal adornment. Su Chin’s paper was presented at the conference by Joanna Kitingan, Director of the Sabah Museum.
Patricia Nayoi  Berawan – the healing beads of the Bidayuh people
Patricia Nayoi is a research assistant with the Sarawak Development Institute. 
Dr Khatijah Sanusi  Malacca’s Nyonya Peranakan Beaded Shoes
Dr Khatijah Sanusi is an Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Malaysia.. 
At very short notice Dr Khatijah kindly agreed to give this talk when Akwele could not attend the conference


Workshops – Hands–on teaching and demonstrations

Workshops were only a minor part of BIBCo 2010 and 2011. In 2013 they filled every afternoon, often stretching into early evening. They were very popular, and well attended by walk-in participants from Kuching and surrounding area.

Workshops included:

  • Paper beadmaking (Sarawak, by Heart Treasures)
  • Fibre beads (Sarawak, by Kraftangan Malaysia)
  • ‘Recycle – Reuse’ – from trash to treasure (Australia, by Maggie Mueller)
  • Indigenous Beadwork (Taiwan, by Kathy Chen)
  • Painting seed beads (Sarawak, by Lim Kok Wing University)
  • Lamp-bead production (Sarawak, by Florence Sujang)
  • ‘ulub’ bead bobble of the Orang Ulu (Sarawak, by Livan Trading)
  • Rungus beadwork (Sabah, demonstration by Gerai Orang Asli)
  • Chinese-style bracelet (China, by Valerie Hector)

For the Full Workshop list Click here


Beads Abuzz – exhibition/sales

Beads Abuzz was well patronized by participants, walk-ins and the general public including hotel guests who came to see and stayed to buy! 28 local and international exhibitors/sellers assembled a colourful, high-quality spread of bead materials in every form and shape: modern, ethnic local and international, fancy, hand-made (paper), antique – nothing was missing!


Post Conference Tours

Borneo Adventure was the Official Tour Operator for BIBCo 2013. They arranged post–conference tours for the event.

The longer tours were undertaken by some small groups.

Post Conference Tours included

  • Anna Rais– a day trip to a Bidayuh longhouse where the ladies demonstrated the construction of their typical ‘Tall Hats’.
  • Bario – three-day trip into the highlands, where the Kelabit ladies show and demonstrate the construction of their distinctive ‘Bead Caps’
  • Surabaya/Jombang– four-day trip to visit the glass recyclers and bead-makers of Jombang, Indonesia


Follow-up Queries

For any enquiries or more information generally about the event, please email Crafthub (

Photos from the Event

All photos are Copyright © Crafthub 2013.


BIBCo 2013 was organised by …
… and the event was managed by …
crafthub logo
UCSI Communications logo
Crafthub Sdn Bhd