FASCINATING HANDICRAFTS GALORE
Malaysia boasts a delightful variety of traditional handicrafts. Choices range from priceless authentic antiques to exquisite modern hand-made crafts.
As most artisans are Muslims, Malaysian handicraft designs are heavily influenced by Islam. The religion prohibits the depiction of the human form in art. Hence, most designs are based on natural elements such as the interlacing of leaves or vines, flowers and animals.
Popular items of traditional design include Perak’s labu sayong, geluk, belanga, Chinese dragon kiln ceramics and Sarawakian tribal motif pottery. Contemporary items include vases, flower pots, decorative pottery, sculpture and kitchenware.
Found in many rural Malaysian homes, The belanga is often characterised by a round base and wide rim. It is often used to cook curries, as it is believed that its round base allows heat to be distributed more evenly.
Blessed with an abundance of timber in boundless tropical forests, Malaysia is renowned for an assortment of distinctive wood crafts. Traditionally, whole houses were built from elaborate hand-carved timber. Today, antique Malay-styled engraved panels, keris dagger handles, Chinese containers, unique Orang Asli spirit sculptures, intricate walking sticks, kitchen utensils and carved scented woods are among the wide range of exotic decorative items found in Malaysia.
Popular since the early days, traditional brass casting and bronze working are still used to make an array of utensils. More recently in the 19th century, with the discovery of tin in Malaysia, pewter has become increasingly popular. Metal craft products include modern decorative items, kitchen ware and traditional artifacts like tepak sireh sets, rose-water instruments and keris blades.
Marvel at the creative hand-woven crafts of Malaysia. Local plant fibres and parts from bamboo, rattan, pandan and mengkuang leaves are coiled, plaited, twined and woven to produce items such as bags, baskets, mats, hats, tudung saji and sepak raga balls.
Colourful and captivating, Malaysia’s traditional textiles are much sought after worldwide. Varieties include batik, songket, pua kumbu and tekat. These textiles are made into all sorts of decorative items, from haute couture clothes to shoes, colourful curtains and delicate bed linen.
Referring to the process of dyeing fabric by making use of a resistant technique; covering areas of cloth with wax to prevent it absorbing colours. The colours in batik are much more resistant to wear than those of painted or printed fabrics because the cloth is completely immersed in dye.
Utilising an intricate supplementary weft technique where gold threads are woven in between the longitudinal silk threads of the background cloth. In the past, this rich and luxurious fabric demonstrated the social status of the Malay elite.
Made from individually dyed threads on a back strap loom. Its supernatural motifs are inspired by dreams and ancient animist beliefs. The patterns that emerge are a fusion of the real and surreal. And each weave is distinctive of its maker’s hand.
JEWELLERY & COSTUME ACCESSORIES
Enticing hand-crafted accessories abound in Malaysia. Choose from leather-crafted goods, beadwork necklaces from Borneo or finely made gold and silver jewellery adorned with gems.
A three-piece brooch set traditionally used to pin the lapels of the baju kebaya together. Kerongsang usually comes in sets of three. The typical three-piece set comprises of a kerongsang ibu (mother piece) which is larger and heavier. The other two are called the kerongsang anak (child pieces) and are worn below the kerongsang ibu.
A traditional hairpin used to secure hair in a bun at the back of women’s heads. Typically made of gold or silver, these hairpins are normally worn in graduated sets of three, five or seven by brides and traditional dancers.
A large, intricately ornamented belt buckle worn around the sampin, a skirt-like cloth worn by men, to complement their baju melayu, the traditional attire for men. Traditionally, the pending is a sign of wealth and status for men.