From Southeast Asia
Mengkuang is a tropical plant in the screwpine genus, the leaves of which are commonly used in Malaysian handicrafts. Native to southern Asia, its natural habitat ranges from southern India east to Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands (southern Japan), and south to Indonesia. It is commonly found in Malaysia near mangroves and in jungles. The botanical name of Mengkuang is Pandanus odoratissimus.
2. The Mengkuang is a huge pandan-like plant, varying in size between straggling shrub and tall tree, with long, thorny, and pointed leaves. The flower is used as perfume, aromatic oil (kevda oil), and fragrant distillation (otto) called keorra-ka-arak. These are stimulant and antispasmodic, and are used to treat headache and rheumatism. The flowers are also used to flavor food. The fruit of the Mengkuang is large, resembling a pineapple, and can be eaten.
3. Weaving of mengkuang leaves used to be a leisurely pastime of coastal village women in the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia during the rainy months. Today, it is a thriving cottage industry. The leaves, after having stripped of its thorns, are first split into long strands, soaked and dried in the sun. The natural drying process makes mengkuang production a seasonal process, slower in the monsoon season. Once dried, the leaves are boiled and dyed with vegetable colours. It is then woven according to the required designs. The process requires patience, skill and dedication.
4. Products made from mengkuang may be of a single colour, or of various designs employing many colours. Highly skilled mengkuang weavers incorporate motifs or 'kelarai', usually based on plants and even animals, into their designs. Mengkuang products range from the purely utilitarian, such as mats and baskets to more decorative products such as handbags, hats, gift boxes and souvenirs. Many mengkuang gift and souvenir products combine other handicrafts, such as batik in a single item. Template:More1