The Malaysian Songket

The Star

By Mae Chan | Sep 25, 2009

The Malaysian Songket: The Precious Gift of Heritage

Company/Seller Details

Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) was founded in 2007 under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of Malaysia, Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah. It aims to improve the lives of artisans, weavers and craftsmen by raising the level of skills and creating fair employment opportunities for them, also introducing contemporary designs and innovation in local crafts to enhance their value and to expand the Malaysian crafts market. Employing 60 weavers from both Terengganu and Sarawak in their pay-and-train scheme, the Foundation believes in empowering these weavers to be independent and all-rounded. YTNZ also supports single-mother weavers by buying songket from them as well as providing financial aid to improve and upgrade their work infrastructure. Selling their products under the Royal Terengganu Songket brand, the Foundation aims to open a flagship store in Kuala Lumpur, to educate and expose the art of songket to the Malaysian people, with plans to take this Malaysian art to the world.

Royal Terengganu Songket
Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah
No.83, Jalan Telawi,
Bangsar,
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2284 8253
http://www.yayasantnz.org
Description

Songket is traditionally a luxurious hand-woven cloth, which is historically associated Malaysian royalty. Intricate patterns are painstakingly woven with gold and silver threads into silk or cotton yarns, yet the inspiration for songket often reflects the simpleness of the surrounding nature. Leaves or flowers such as the Orkid or Pucuk Rebung are common motifs. Fashioning a songket is a laborious and tedious process that requires a high level of skill, each thread repeatedly woven through a method called the supplementary weft technique to create patterns on the cloth itself.

The Terengganu songket weavers believe that the technique originated from Indian traders during the time of Srivijaya, who brought along their weaving looms and introduced it to the local people. From then, this precious art form has become an important part of the Malaysian identity.

As with most traditional art forms, songket weaving has been gradually overlooked and the number of weavers has dwindled over the years. The Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) is founded to address this problem, raising the standard of living for artisans and weavers as well as to create viable means to support and expand the usage of songket, making it a sustainable art.

A major achievement by the Foundation is the production of the light-weight contemporary songket that breaks away from the typically thick and stiff materials of traditional songket, its technique allowing for lighter and thinner materials to be woven without breaking. This “new generation” songket maintains the traditional elements of the art while also creating new uses such as the songket shawl and modern clothing fit for the local weather.

Apart from just producing raw materials, YTNZ also produces a wide range of products through their Royal Terengganu Songket brand, widening the usage of songket through collaboration with various designers both local and international, such as Tom Abang Saufi, Radzuan Radziwill, Melinda Looi, Jovian Mandagie, Rizalman Ibrahim, Tangoo, Pink Jambu, Annick Goutal and Bagatelle.

Through some of these collaborations, the Foundation is able to produce unique and creative home and lifestyle products, a varied range that currently includes cushion covers, place mats, table runners, songket wall panels, curtains, songket wall frame, songket chairs, gift boxes and upholstery.

Combining traditional and modern designs, these songket products are of not only great artistic value, but also a timely reminder of our proud heritage, a great gift of inspiration not only for us, but for our future generation. Passed on through Indian traders who introduced the traditional weaving looms, using fine Chinese silk brought in from the ports of Malacca, shaped by the Malay community and influenced by our surrounding nature, the art of songket weaving is a truly Malaysian legacy to be cherished.

Lacquer gift boxes (Oval Silver)

Price: RM1,800
Intricate songket gift boxes that are perfect as gifts or to add a touch of elegance to any festive occasion. Available in silver and gold, with round, oval, square and rectangular shapes.

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Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

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