Edited cut

Rattan Mandiri, West Java

In 1995 Karwita, known by his friends as Onay, desired independence and self-sufficiency. He had been working with his cousin-in-law, Kardi, at Sumber Alam, the largest producer of rattan in Majalengka for nine years and he felt ready to make a name for himself. So he created a business and called it Rattan Mandiri. ‘Mandiri’ translates to ‘independent’.

Since then, Rattan Mandiri has grown to include 30 full-time producers, almost half of them women, and Pak Onay’s priority is for his business to be different from others out there.

The business found its origins in the shift from the widespread use of bamboo to rattan in Java in the mid 1980s. Pak Onay developed his skills during his time at Sumber Alam, and by attending local government-provided courses in product development in Cirebon. Accordingly, Rattan Mandiri uses rattan and water hyacinth exclusively, to make stationery, tableware, furniture and decorative pieces.

Pak Onay began with weaving at Sumber Alam and later moved onto administration. He says Kardi has been supportive of him.

“The most important thing Kardi taught me was to select good quality materials and to attend exhibitions,” says Pak Onay.

Rattan chest edite

The most valuable training he has had, however, he says, has come from Pekerti, with product design expert Priyo having visited Pak Onay frequently since 1999.

“Pekerti delivers training more frequently with annual meetings, product development, administration, costing pricing and Fair Trade.”

Rattan Mandiri came to fulfill the Fair Trade principles as a result of the experience Pak Onay had also had working with them in the past.

“I worked with ASPEC in Cirebon in the 1990s, and they were working with Pekerti, then” says Pak Onay.

Pak Onay is interested in working more closely with Pekerti, because of the financial aspect that distinguishes it from other supplier organisations.

“Pekerti gives 50 per cent down payment, which is different to some other companies, which sometimes postpone payment by three months or longer,” he says.

Rattan draws edited

Rattan Mandiri purchases water hyacinth from a local company. Sometimes this is ready to weave, but if not, he must dry it in the sun for 7-10 days minimum. The hyacinth is ‘fogged’ with smoke from burning sulphur rocks, which changes the colour of the reeds from green to yellow. The hyacinth, which is 40-60cm in length, is woven, and then Fox glue is added to protect the weaving. A coating is used which is sometimes non-toxic, depending on the buyer’s request.

Pak Onay would like to thank Kardi for teaching him the skills that have allowed him to provide for his sons,  Nurharja, 22, and Nurdiansah, 12, by developing Rattan Mandiri.