The Brunei Arts and Handicraft Center is a museum of sorts since it features the sultanate’s amazing handiwork that dates back to centuries ago. Located at Jalan Residency in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, the arts and handicraft center is home to Brunei’s crafts and fine art pieces through the years, representing the country’s proud heritage. Pieces on display include woodcarvings, brassware, silverware, woven crafts, and basketry.
Although there are not as many prehistoric artworks as guests might want to see, the center is proud to put on display traditional and intricately designed brocades called “kain tenunan”. These are colorfully woven pieces of fabrics that made use of gold and silver threads. Highly valued as heirlooms and expensive pieces that were worn only during special ceremonies, the kain tenunan was an important fabric in early Brunei, and it still is today.
Other prized items on display are ancient Malay weapons, ornamental silver cannons that were crafted using hand tools, and traditional silver daggers called “kris” or “keris”, which are shaped like a snake. A souvenir shop at the arts and handicraft center sells these daunting-looking daggers that are unique to Southeast Asia. (Most of the souvenir items for sale are a bit expensive.)
The center is not hard to locate since it is visible from downtown. People may just walk to it. The center stands on the waterfront, pointing to the location of the Brunei Museum. It is one of the most frequently visited attractions in the capital city.
Bandar Seri Begawan is proud to host the Arts and Handicraft Center along with other museums. The main and largest repository of national treasures is the nearby Brunei Museum or Muzium Brunei. First established in 1965 and opened in 1972, the national museum is home to a number of Islamic art pieces from the personal collection of the sultan, art pieces depicting the customs and culture of the proud Bruneian people, dioramas showing the unique natural history of the country, several pieces of brassware, silverware and ancient weapons, and a descriptive narrative showing the history of petroleum.
Brunei is one of the wealthiest nations in Asia, thanks to its abundant supply of petroleum and natural gas. The people live easy lives with free education, free healthcare and a hefty pension. The country employs international workers from several parts of the world, mostly Asia.
Another important museum in the capital city is the Royal Regalia Building found at Jalan Sultan. This museum is all about the beloved sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the most cherished displays are the sultan’s traditional jewelry, Silver Jubilee chariots, coronation crowns, golden armory, silver weapons, and a gallery depicting the sultan’s coronation. There are also documents that record the sultan’s life and the country’s constitutional history.
These three venues of national history, culture and pride are just a few of the reasons why more than a million tourists now travel to Brunei every year. The country also boasts of natural reserves, inviting beaches and world-famous dive sites. The Brunei Arts and Handicraft Center is very popular among local and foreign tourists, and almost always included in cultural tour packages. It is a testament to the uniqueness of the Malay and Bruneian cultures. The center is open every day from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15p.m. but only until 2:30 p.m. on Friday and Sunday. Admission is free.