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The Final Threads: How Malaysia’s Textile Heritage May Disappear Forever

The Final Threads: How Malaysia’s Textile Heritage May Disappear Forever

The 2023 Hasanah Gold Threads Awards honours Malaysian textile makers across the nation.

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Our home Malaysia is more than just a melting pot of cultures. It’s a trove of incredible arts and crafts that are woven from the crazy quilt of traditions, histories and the creativity of our people.

The dazzling textiles that we have here are just some examples of this unique heritage we share.

From the stunningly intricate songket Sarawak to the sacred dream-inspired pua kumbu weaves. These masterpieces carry symbolic meanings and stories of those who make and use them.

But, our textile treasures are also in danger of disappearing forever.

The last loom

“We find ourselves at risk of losing not just our tangible and intangible heritage but also a part of our very identity,” said Yayasan Hasanah Trustee and Managing Director Datuk Shahira Ahmed Bazari.

She explained that many of our textile traditions and techniques are on the verge of being lost to history with no one left to continue the practice.

Today, we are marked by a cultural crisis, where arts, cultural and heritage practitioners are growing older.

Yayasan Hasanah Trustee and Managing Director Datuk Shahira Ahmed Bazari

Valuable skill and knowledge of practitioners like 91-year-old Sarawakian, Ibu Ngot Bi, who’s been producing these intricate woven mats for close to a century, may be gone without being passed down to the next generation.

A traditional plating mat hand made by Ibu Ngot Bi (see cover picture).

A lonely existence

Besides younger generations simply having no interest in learning and continuing the work, the lack of recognition and the fact that the practice is seldom profitable are among the many reasons why some of our textile heritage may soon be extinct.

“It’s a very lonely existence (being a craft maker). There’s nobody to give feedback, nobody to give support, nobody to give encouragement. Makers are hardly acknowledged for their crafts until they finish it. Then they still need to figure out how to sell it,” said Jacqueline Fong, Co-Founder of Tanoti and Awards Producer of Hasanah Gold Threads Awards. 

Nyonya beadwork slippers.

She added that there needs to be more awareness to keep our beautiful textiles alive so that they will be enjoyed by future Malaysians.

Whether they are wearing it, whether they are looking at it as art or whether they are going to be able to earn money from it. If not this generation, hopefully, the next generation and the generations to come.

Tanoti Co-Founder Awards Producer of Hasanah Gold Threads Awards.

Hasanah Gold Threads Awards 2023

The inaugural Hasanah Gold Threads Awards champions Malaysian textile makers and celebrates the resilience and cultural contributions of communities across the nation.

Presented by Yayasan Hasanah and the Finance Ministry, in collaboration with Tanoti and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA), the awards aim to preserve and sustain the skilful crafts that have persisted through the generations.

Hasanah Gold Threads Awards 2023 winners.

The awards recognised excellence in six unique categories. This year, 18 exceptional textile artisans emerged as the cusps of excellence and showcased their extraordinary craftsmanship across categories of Beadwork, Drawing and Stamping, Embroidery and Embellishment, Ikat, Plaiting, and Supplementary Weft.

Each category presents two awards (Best Traditional and Best Innovative) and carries a cash prize of RM25,000.

Commendable efforts are also recognised with the Special Mention Awards in each category including a RM10,000 cash prize.

The awards ceremony which took place at the Borneo Cultures Museum in Kuching, Sarawak over the weekend honoured the participating artisans and featured their works for all to see. The ceremony will also be included as part of a special documentary series featuring the artisans.

Additionally, an extended Discovery Exhibition will be hosted in the Function Room at Borneo Cultures Museum that will be open to the public until 20 September, 2023.

For more info visit the awards website or follow their Facebook and Instagram.

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