Wesley lends Sarawakian flavour to Barbie dolls

Wesley and some of his creations. – Wesley’s photo.

By Chew Lip Song

WHEN flight attendant Wesley Jugah, 33, was holed up at home during the Movement Control Order (MCO), he decided to try out an unconventional hobby: customising Barbie dolls.

Wesley, an Iban said the idea came about as he was unable to return home to Sarawak to celebrate the Gawai Dayak festival.

Refusing to be let down, he decided to try creating beautiful Kumang dolls, FMT reported.

When he was done with it, he posted it on his Instagram account and the photo went viral, with calls asking him to create more, especially dolls wearing outfits of the ethnic communities in Sabah and Sarawak.

It can take up to three days to make one doll, depending on the complexity of the costume, Wesley said, adding that most materials can, fortunately, be found at his local arts and crafts shop but some materials have to be imported.

He said it was not easy to design the dolls because he had to figure out a way to create the costume in Barbie proportions without compromising on the essential details of the intricate outfits.

“Sarawakians and Sabahans take enormous pride in our heritage, especially the costumes. I wanted the Barbie costume to be as identical to the real one as possible.

“I believe, with this emphasis, I can share the uniqueness of each outfit and educate more people around the world about the beauty of our culture as well.”

Some of Wesley’s creations. – Photo from Wesley’s Instagram.

Wesley’s unique Kumang doll was not his first attempt at customising Barbie costumes. He began this hobby in 2017, when he designed a flight attendant doll in a Malaysia Airlines kebaya.

His best friend had resigned from the airline and he wanted to make something to remember her forever.

The response to his customised dolls has been amazing. “Never did I imagine I would be receiving so much support and encouragement from everyone around me.

“So many Malaysians have sent me positive messages because they are so proud to see the dolls dressed in our traditional outfits.”

Among the 22 dolls, the original Kumang doll is the favourite among Malaysians.

Wesley believes she has attracted so much attention because of the intricate details of her costume, making it almost lifelike.

A whole new world of opportunity has opened up for this flight attendant and doll designer. He has been receiving a lot of requests to produce more ethnic costumes.

“Sabah and Sarawak has a rich cultural heritage and every ethnicity has their own uniqueness.

“I would love to design more doll costumes that are probably not familiar to most Malaysians. I believe that this can not only help preserve our amazing culture, but also educate the new generation about our heritage,” Wesley said.

Wesley’s Instagram can be found here.