Heru Firmansyah’s first memory of his family’s long history with handicraft production is that of his grandfather, Pak Oyo, carving a horse statue from bone. He was just five years old. Based in Sumedang, in the same home his grandson lives in today, Pak Oyo was cultivating a business, which, Heru is not ashamed to say, found its origins in the Dutch occupation of Indonesia.
“Indonesia has many rubber plantations,” says Heru. My grandfather saw (the Dutch) making and selling products from the sap of the rubber trees, and saw it making them a lot of money. So, he decided to copy them.”
Long after the Dutch left Indonesia, the Firmansyah family has continued to produce hand-made goods. Heru’s father, Enjang Sudrajat, expanded skills passed down from Pak Oyo to include making indigenous Australian-style didgeridoos from wood and bamboo, ornamental darts and Balinese statues, which Heru continues to produce and sell in Bali. For this purpose, Heru learnt the traditional carving process from Enjang at the age of 17.
It was in 1994 that Enjang received a visit from Pekerti. The organisation was interested in viewing goods and production processes to assess businesses’ suitability for classification as fair trade producers. Enjang was recruited as a partner of Pekerti, allowing the business to expand to include 12 local staff, and allowing them to receive training in the fair trade principles. From there, a relationship was established which lasted 10 years.
So it was only natural that, when Pak Enjang passed away in 2007, Heru would continue business relations with Pekerti. In doing so, he has further expanded his skills in response to the growing demands of the international market. Today, the newly named Pramanik Art, meaning ‘beautiful’ in Indonesian, produces musical instruments, toys, ornamental statues and masks, and decorative boxes and frames. Pekerti’s training in product development has also helped Pramanik to produce furniture and develop varied painting techniques.
For Heru, who married in December 2009, his involvement with Pekerti is a source of income that will help him and his wife, Leni, to support their future children to complete junior and senior high school. But this is not the only good reason for the two organisations to remain partners.
“Even today, I still enjoy working with handicrafts,” says Heru. Pramanik’s products are made from MDF, mahogany and albasia, sourced from a supplier based in Sumedang since the 1970s, and water-based acrylic paints from Bandung.