Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sarongs for the Foochow Women

This is a treasure from the past. 1950's Methodist Secondary School Chinese Department girl students swimming in Sg. Maaw, Sibu, near Chung Cheng School. Photo from Reunion Booklet of Class of 1958 MSS,Sibu. Did they wear swimming suits? Were they sarong-clad? Only they can tell us now.

I think this painting by Liew Choong Ching ( an will remind many of us how we were brought up in Sibu and how we were kept quiet and asleep in a sarong, how we were carried around by our busy mothers and later how we kept our own children quiet and howe ourselves have carried our own babies around.
The photo of a mother carrying a baby in a sarong sling is actually an advertisement from e-bay. I am wondering if our next generation will do the same , using a sarong this way. Many westerners have found the sarong sling an amazing useful gadget. (

The group photo of women enjoying a good bath wearing sarongs may be a thing of the past. But sweet memories for me. I thank Kevin Song of Sibu for this picture. This is from his book, The Impending Storm. Thanks Kevin and Phyllis.

The scanned photo from Kevin Song's book again is so full of rich memories for me. It is a very poignant photo and valuable as a historic photo. A sarong clad mother having a morning bath with her son. Peaceful,harmonious with nature and blessed by the Almighty God.

The Sarong is a great invention indeed!!
Here I will recount the many uses of the ubiquitous,perennially fashionable, relevant garment of indomitable spirit. What a wonderful belonging. We must own more than one in fact.

Firstly, I remember my mother using the baby sling. It was a very important part of her role as a mother and homemaker. How much she had put on her shoulders to bring us all up.
The advertisement describes a baby sling in this way:
They are worn the same way as rebozo baby slings, tied over one shoulder, except that many people move the knot around to the back, as in the picture above. Also like the rebozo, the selendang can be worn without baby, as a skirt, dress, or several other ways (not to mention all the household uses - they are so beautiful!).

These particular selendang baby slings are printed on 100% cotton, with a traditional batik look. The colors are vivid and just gorgeous. They are very soft and light-weight. 40" X 90"

In the olden days, Foochow women wore sarongs when we went swimming in the Rejang River. So they were used as our bathing suits. Sorry no photo of that era, and all of us, my cousins and I would scream with joy, jumping into the river, without fear of drowning. And yes, then the water was clean.

The sarong would be used for keeping the babies quiet, or napping in the hot afternoons. We call this spring and sarong, "neaw" or "nyut". A mother or baby sitter would hang a rope and a spring from the ceiling. A sarong would then be hooked onto the spring. The baby would sleep for hours in the sarong. What an intelligent contraption. Today, Toys 'r' Us has also "invented" a very expensive baby comforting swing "bed" at a huge price tage of RM399.00. for many, a rope, a spring and a sarong will do the trick. Go to any longhouse, or any Foochow or Malay home, one can find this very traditional use of the sarong.

The sarong can be used as a bed cover,pillow cover/case, food cover, table cloth, temporary makeshift curtain,headwear, sunshade,body cover, and at night, as a cover from mosquitoes,and of course for wrapping up your beloved baby when you travel.It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It is the best wear for sleeping in a hot Sarawak night!

One can find so many hundreds of uses for the humble sarong.

Never leave home without a sarong.

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