A Serra Esterlin Ohee Story, Preserving Sentani Bark Painting and Becoming a Young Papuan Entrepreneur

goodmorningpapua.com – The breeze from Lake Sentani cools the day when Serra Esterlin Ohee (24) paints with bark media at the pier of Khalkote Beach, East Sentani District, Jayapura Regency, Papua.

That afternoon, Friday (22/7/2022), Serra occasionally showed his homeland not far from the dock. Asei Besar Island is the name, across from the Khalkote pier.

Serra Esterlin Ohee, 24, lives in a family of craftsman of the Khombow bark on the island.

He used to see his father and mother paint and color the bark of the Khombow tree and then sell it to tourists. There, Serra and his family grew up selling Khombow wooden handicrafts.

Now, Serra continues the talent of craftsmen and entrepreneurs while preserving the arts from his homeland under the Reymay Art brand.

During the visit of JagoWan Digital UKM from Whatsapp, Serra and his three brothers practiced the process of painting and coloring the bark of the Khombow tree. “For tourists, they usually cross directly to Asei Island. So as soon as tourists get off the speed boat, people immediately run to be offered. My father and mother too,” said Serra as he pointed his finger at Asei Island, Friday (22/7/2022) afternoon. Serra’s shrewdness is not an easy thing. Serra was used to seeing her father and mother paint the bark of Khombow since childhood at her house.

From there, Serra thought of preserving the beautiful patterns and stories behind the motifs he drew.

“This is indeed a craft that has been passed down from generation to generation, starting from father, mother working on it. We are children because we often see this work, so we often follow it. Usually starts with coloring. From there because I’m used to it, so I’m personally interested in making and selling, “said Serra.

In 2016, Khombow art was designated as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Indonesia from Papua with the domain “Traditional Craft Skills and Skills”. Initially, this traditional art could only be found in the Asei Islands in Lake Sentani.

He also wants handicraft products from Asei Island to continue to exist.

“Hopefully we can preserve culture and art. Because this is all we have to be able to introduce it to the outside world,” said Serra. Khombow itself is painted with motifs in the form of animals and plants with a certain meaning in each image. Serra intends to bring happiness to every customer who buys its products. Serra said he sells bark products with three motifs from his village such as hats, tote bags and framed accessories.

“We have a total of five motives. But there are three that are most famous. Yonikhy means strength), Ayemehele means prosperity, Fouw means unity, and unity.”

Serra at that time migrated to Malang, East Java to study. Serra studied D-3 Accounting.

In Malang, Serra did not forget to bring the culture from its origin. “I went to college in Malang. I used my parents’ handicrafts, and it turns out that many people are interested in their products. They ask a lot of questions about modern and stylish motifs.” Serra said. He thought after getting the question. The painting is only done by hand and it is made manually, aka not using a sewing machine.

From there, Serra was determined that the handicraft products from where he was born could be known by outsiders.

Now, Serra works as an honorary worker at the Jayapura Regent’s Office. In between his busy schedule, he has also been in the Reymar Art business since 2020. Serra is not discouraged even though he is facing the problem of Khombow bark which has become rare in Jayapura.

“I’m trying to find a supplier that produces bark as well. Finally, I got it in Yogyakarta. For the manufacture of the bag material in Yogyakarta and then sent back to Jayapura,” said Serra.

He also did not deny having to deal with expensive shipping costs from Yogyakarta to Jayapura even though the price of raw materials for leather bags is relatively cheap.

However, this difficult choice must be chosen so that the business can continue to run.

In Jayapura, Serra it is also difficult for human resources to understand sewing techniques, the availability of faux leather, and bag accessories. Reymar Art marketing is done online such as through the website, Instagram, and Whatsapp.

There are also offline sales such as cooperation at a souvenir shop in Jayapura.

Every now and then, he gets support from the local government to hold his wares at cultural festivals such as the Lake Sentani Festival.

“Initially I sold via Instagram and then tried Whatsapp Bussiness. From Whatsapp Bussines I knew there was a catalog feature. Personally, most of my sales are online. I send it to Jakarta and Gorontalo at the most,” said Serra.

The work is carried out in their respective homes. Once ready, the goods are ready to be sold.

Paintings on Khombow bark, for example, sell for IDR 500,000-IDR 800,000.

The turnover that Serra gets from the sale of this bark craft reaches IDR 20 million per month.

Even so, the turnover that Serra gets is uncertain because it depends on incoming orders.

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