Indonesia’s wealth of heritage handicrafts is as diverse as its many cultures. Each month we explore the archipelago’s offerings through a different traditional craft.

In addition to being a natural tourist destination, the city of Padang Panjang, West Sumatra, is well known as a centre for producing high-quality leather sandals and shoes.

After the island of Java, Sumatra has the largest leather tanning industry in the country. Since 1996, Padang Panjang has been known as a producer and supplier of leather craft products, including shoes, sandals, belts, wallets and a variety of bags. In this city of around 50,000 people, there are a number of villages that have become leather handicraft centres, including the Balai Balai and Bukit Surungan villages.

The exotic culture of the Minangkabau people from the area is integrated in the process of making the products, including in the combining of leather with songket weaving. This unique characteristic adds value to the items. The leather craft products from these individual businesses are diverse, ranging from leather soles and shoes to belts, wallets and bags. The prices also vary, depending on the workmanship used to create the motifs, as well as the quality of the products.

One of Padang Panjang’s unique leather handicrafts that has drawn tourists is the tarompa datuak. Tarompa datuak, which is becoming well known, is the result of the development of the rasul cepal leather sandals, which originated in the Middle East. At first glance, there is no striking difference between the tarompa datuak and the rasul cepal sandals. The difference lies in the middle – the rasul cepal sandals, which are curved and pointed at the end, while the tarompa datuak sandals are flatter.