Centuries old brass casting business stands the risk off extinction due to the lack of bullet casings.
Terengganu’s brass casting legacy is in danger of becoming extinct due to lack of bullet casings which is essential in the business.
Local brass craftsman Wan Mahadi Wan Ismail, 43, who runs a family business spanning some three centuries, said the lack of raw material is literally driving craftsmen in Terengganu out of business.
“Bullet casings are the material needed for brass craftsmen here.
“It would be melted down before being shaped into unique and beautiful brass artefacts,” he said.
He said among the items that could be produced from the brass bullet casings are lamp stands and furnishings.
Wan Mahadi said the craftsment had enjoyed the supply of bullet casings, which were subsidised by the government but the assistance had ceased.
“Previously, we would buy the casings for less than RM10 per kilogram due to the subsidy.
“However, now the quota of bullets had been stopped, thus we are forced to deal with scrap metal dealers, which sold them at RM15 per kilogram,” he said.
He added the high cost for raw materials led to many craftsmen closing their business.
“The government provided the subsidised bullet casings up to 1998, where there were about 80 craftsmen.
“By the time they resumed the scheme in 2006, only 20 brass businesses were left in the state and last year, it was stopped again,” he said adding that, there were only seven brass business left at present.
Wan Mahadi hoped the government, especially the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry would look into the plight of brass casting craftsmen here and provide the raw material needed.
“We are merely asking for the quota be granted to us at subsidised price.
“If no aid is given, I am afraid thus there would be no future for this particular art and craft,” he said.
Wan Mahadi, who runs a brass casting workshop and shop near the Batu Bersurat roundabout here, said it was ashamed that the state brass craftsmen were not supported anymore in terms of raw material despite being the pioneers of the brass casting industry in the country.
“It is not a mere question of businesses closing but it is a matter of heritage as brass casting is a special industry, rich with history and cultural significance,” he said.
He added brass casting was also an important tourism product, as tourists from as far as Europe would come to the state just to witness brass casting from the pioneers.
“I receive some 50 foreign tourists daily, who came to my workshop to see the whole process of brass casting.
“The number of domestic tourist from all over the country is considerably more as well,” he said.
The craftsman is a degree holder in Fire Metal studies as well as a Diploma in Education from Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara (UITM) and has been in the business for more than 15 years since his father died.
“At first, I was planning to become a teacher but I was determined not to let the heritage of brass casting die when I my father passed away back in 1995.
“The craft requires specialised skill and most importantly passion and one’s soul must be in it, thus not just anyone can do this,” he said. - By Farik Zolkepli, Photos by Zabidi Husin