Traditional Crafts of Malaysia
Colored designs on textiles, which can be either cotton or silk, are produced by applying wax to the parts that are left uncolored. This traditional method is practiced in various forms throughout the Malay Archipelago, with Terengganu batik as a particular favorite with tourists. Its elegant print stand out as evening wear, and can be found as art pieces on bags and cushion covers.
A legacy of the courts of Pattani, the fabric is usually reserved for use on special and ceremonial occasions. Dubbed the ‘cloth of gold’, songket is produced when threads are interwoven with gold and silver strands, resulting in a brocade of intricate designs and patterns. Each length of cloth represents days of laborious and dexterous work using traditional looms and cotton-spinning devices.
One of the oldest traditional crafts in the country, Terengganu woodcarvers take their inspiration from Islamic art and the rich local flora. Although some are decorative pieces, most have a more practical purpose. From houses to palaces, the craft is seen through the intricate designs on beams, supports, balustrades, doors, window shutters, as well as furniture. All bear testimony to the exquisite craftsmanship and enduring quality of the state’s woodcarvers.
Mengkuang (Pandanus Weaving)
Weaving 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 tall, thorny leaves of the pandanus or mengkuang are collected, boiled, dyed and made into colorful mats, beach bags, hats, fans, purses, and slippers.
See the dazzling display of kites gliding and swooping across the azure sky! It was once played by farmers on leveled ground after post-harvesting season. Today, however, kite-flying attracts people from all walks of life. Over the years, kite festivals have encouraged more creativity in kite-making, thus resulting in kites designed in the shape of a fish, cat, caterpillar, or bird. But the Kelantanese wau-bulan (moon-kite) still remains as popular as it was years ago.
The most important personal weapon of the Malays, the keris is a two-edged sheathed dagger with an ornate carved handle. Although it has become famous on account of its sinuous blade, the keris is intended to deliver a horizontal thrust, as distinct as a downward stab.
The small island of Pulau Duyung near Kuala Terengganu is where local craftsmen practice the art of traditional boat making. They work entirely from memory and experience, without any set plans, using skills handed down from generations before.
The rattan, a climbing palm with long thin jointed pliable stems, is just one of the many native plants that are woven and thus given practical value by the local people. Before it is woven, the rattan is boiled to kill its tissues and to get rid of its sugar content. This is to ensure that it lasts, and also to prevent it from attacks by woodworms. Mainly used in the making of furniture, the rattan is highly popular for its durability, as well as its aesthetic quality.