China, Langkasuka and the textile world in Kelantan

32433ef9-e6b1-4dec-98e4-f820dceb8a88

 

In researching motifs for textiles and jewellery, I discovered fascinating historical links between the Chinese, the ancient Langkasuka kingdom in Pattani and Kelantan.

Chinese sea trade with the Malay World began as early as the fifth century, stimulated by demand for luxury goods by the Chinese royal courts. It has been reported that spices, turtle eggs, perfumed woods, ivory and tortoise shell are some of the coveted items by the Chinese nobility. The Chinese apparently influenced textiles in the Malay World including Kelantan as Chinese envoys brought silk, which influenced the use of silk by royals in Malay palaces. One prominent Malay kingdom mentioned in Chinese history is “Chi Tu” or the Red Earth Land (Tanah Merah), believed to be interior of Kelantan. Chi Tu guo ji, an account written by Sui Dynasty envoys after a visit to Chi tu in 606-10 CE describes highly organized and wealthy royal court, where the Chinese envoy was offered a gold “hibiscus” crown and camphor. Nearby, the coastal kingdom of Langkasuka, located near Patani (south of Thailand) was a centre for Malay culture due to its proximity to the states of Kelantan and Terengganu in Malaysia, where songket weaving is predominant. The culture of weaving was prevalent in the Langkasuka courts. (Note: this paragraph is extracted from “Songket Revolution”, written by Noor Azlina Yunus, published by Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah, 2008).

On a recent trip to Kelantan, a visit to Rumah Gahara, the batik workshop for Ruzz Gahara brand brought these historical links to the fore once again. In the midst of designing batik motifs that would be distinctive to Ruzz Gahara’s Kelantanese roots, they unearthed ancient motifs that came from or influenced by the Langkasuka kingdom and applied these intricate, historical motifs on batik.

c0407eae-91d2-4ee1-92aa-13d4536f4976

bb2fd696-8882-4011-bbf1-1e7d80320c4b

Ruzz Gahara’s batik blocks were very different and unique in their intricacy. When I spoke to a researcher and culture specialist from the University of Kelantan, she spoke about how she felt that the way batik motifs have been developed recently lacked historical reference and grounding, therefore losing their potential to be meaningful and engaging to the customer. The motifs did not have a story. By linking and reminding people about their history to ancient Langkasuka and Kelantan’s history, the Ruzz Gahara motifs have come to life with a colourful, vibrant history.

51f49b8a-9cf2-43f5-aa17-9af2a33ca188

3afbe591-2b31-4b1f-874b-100590919627

23b53276-ce63-4682-9ff4-a4a2d565d7fe

The silk, organza silk, cotton silk used by Ruzz Gahara for its collection link it further to the history of silk in this region – China. Innovation does come from history after all, and I thank Ruzz Gahara for being one of the champions of history in preserving our heritage, culture and craft.

273e03b5-acd3-4543-b5a5-b99c43b1d4f1

ac15a5de-6eba-4e95-b727-0c45adcc3219

6c5b85a3-6f7f-4018-8753-90cbf418c8f1

We shall continue unearthing Malaysia’s fascinating historical links through its textile and material culture. Stay with us!

Advertisements

The Marriage of Crafts – Behind the scenes of Senijari’s Rattan & Songket Clutch Collection

47c1e282-2a93-4373-98d8-5d5428521a06

When Senijari started out, it was with the firm belief that crafts can be enhanced by design innovation. One of the ways we innovate or refresh our crafts is by combining different materials together.Our first bag collection combined Italian leather and Songket, inspired by the fine Italian craftsmanship and our intricate Songket textiles from Kelantan and Terengganu.

5b0b888f-04fa-4ea4-9328-86d63621005d

8a61f479-ac63-4907-b349-1e32c590ce1b

cd869513-673e-4aae-91fc-6c41e0974a6f

 

f26e2b3d-04bf-4171-bbc7-ef8d313057ec

 

Senijari’s Rattan and Songket Clutch Collection is inspired by what Malaysian artisans in Sarawak could do, coupled with thoughtful research and design. When Senijari was working with Tanoti weavers in Kuching Sarawak, we came across a university project that Tanoti was involved in with UNIMAS in Sarawak. The project explored working with the “souls of the tropical rainforest”, namely the Penan people who weave and dye rattan vines by hand.

b71c31b6-3487-4ec2-9e54-608a1c0891bd

e4730a4a-36af-4272-9934-88463aa4d395

 

How are the bags made from rattan vines? The process is very time-consuming and requires patience and dedication. The rattan would first be hand harvested and naturally dyed. The black dye is from boiling the splits in the leaves of “Kemawah” (Daun Kemawah) and then buried in mud overnight. The clutch will then be completely plaited by hand.  The artisans are mostly from two villages in Long Kawah and Long Meraan in Ulu Sg.Tutoh situated in the highlands of Sarawak. Once the clutches are ready, they are transported by hand to Kuching.

f3037847-b998-4b22-a056-c4ab5c5e4a91

bfa95710-e6aa-4bc8-95fb-afc269bd137a

21a53bf0-1ec7-4ed8-8025-008ceea79101

 

In Kuching, the Songket weavers at Tanoti would have prepared the silk and metallic threads to weave the five motifs for the Senijari Rattan & Songket Collection – Lotus, Lawi Ayam, Angel Wings, Blossom and Humming Bird. These motifs were beforehand sketched and designed by Senijari, and the positioning of the motif on the clutches as well as their measurements and colour combinations were determined by Senijari to achieve the distinctive look and style that Senijari’s brand is known for.

183cc0c6-daac-452d-9b2c-22907fa3e3bc

fdf7517c-7772-4b83-a597-f4be42058cd6

67796126-b613-45a4-828b-f1c2509bbadb

These motifs are woven as Songket on the handloom with a silk background before stitching them on the handmade rattan clutches.

 

The result will be a marriage of two distinctive crafts that are made purely by hand, traditional but infused with a contemporary style and design through the design re-imagination of motifs, colour, measurements and composition as well as finishing. The Rattan & Songket is a true labour of love and a marriage of crafts inspired by our artisans.

c400f4de-4ffd-4f63-84c2-2a009b9adb9a

 

Galeri Tenun Johor – The Launch and Revival of Weaving Gallery in Johor

3b5760e6-41d8-4d50-866f-51c74633c729

In January this year, we dedicated a blog to Johor’s Kain Tenun Muar and the setting up of a weaving gallery in Johor. 10 months later, in 18 November 2018, Galeri Tenun Johor opened its doors. It is situated within the “Kompleks Warisan Sultan Abu Bakar” (The Heritage Complex of Sultan Abu Bakar) and was launched yesterday by the the  Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.

7389c223-c717-4071-89cb-7dce3e356dd0

The gallery has revived the historical Rumah Tenun Johor, the first weaving centre that was initiated by Tengku Ampuan Mariam, the eldest daughter of Sultan Abu Bakar in 1946, and administered by Tok Ambak, a prominent figure of the Johor’s women’s association.  The Heritage Complex includes the Johor weaving gallery, an art gallery, a documentation center and a number of cafes serving Johor food.

f05f6ade-f524-4a26-a0f9-32bee93e95f3

fed94e25-1cb5-4ca6-9259-6383f5cf3fad

The famous “goreng pisang Mawar” or Johor style crispy banana fritters is also situated within this complex. Right across, the historical craft center of JARO, which promotes crafts made by the disabled, is undergoing renovations, and will also be re-opened soon.

Galeri Tenun Johor has been set up not only to display the heritage of Malay textiles and Johor’s history of textiles. More importantly, it aims to revive the weaving heritage in Johor by installing and training new weavers at the center, and it actively promotes innovation in Songket.

bf04f98f-df6b-4094-9925-be121a7f4aec

6c4e6eef-e5ee-44b5-a435-2cfebac30f50 (1)

The gallery showcases not only old textiles from the region, but newly woven cloths in the style of Kain Tenun Muar as well as 10 new songket motifs that were designed specifically for Johor.Among them are Songket designed for the royal family of Johor such as Songket Johor Jauhar and Songket Johor Medini Songket Johor Maharani, two types of Songket Tunku Mahkota Johor and Songket Johor Tanjung Puteri.  Other designs were created specially for the people of Johor, using Johor-inspired motifs of flowers, herbs and spices. They are Songket Tenun Johor, Songket Johor Tanjung Piai,  Songket Johor Mayang Selida and Tenun Johor Berbunga Renek.

8191950d-4a82-4efa-b9c5-5e168ea7365a

1ecae369-2d88-444b-a8e3-b663d1b5f829

996bb552-7860-4a82-9e8d-b97f4d14657b

1c1c3a54-a8cb-44f4-b532-4ddeb6934934

9ce6d5d5-3138-4305-a6e8-c03b155ea3e4

 

The textiles are displayed with interesting information on the motifs. There are also informative panels in the gallery on the history of Malay textiles, the process of producing hand woven textiles using the traditional techniques and the design combinations and inspiration that made up the motifs of Songket Johor.

a6702237-d1a6-4f5d-8730-5f0c043b2605

931653de-6681-4427-8027-e02515114990 (1)

 

 

The handlooms for different types of textiles as well as accessories, which are usually worn with Malay costumes, are displayed in the upper gallery. A video of Johor Malay dance like zapin with dancers in traditional costumes livened up the gallery, showing how the Malay community wears the traditional textiles in their everyday lives and during special occasions.

0a30e28a-3f8f-4717-86d8-8f9ac9f5513f

956e3e83-d4ab-4880-86dd-d41ebddc8258

 

 

 

Senijari’s founder, who is also a board member of Think City attended the launch in her capacity as Think City’s director. Think City played a role in assisting with designing and creating a selection of the text and photo displays for the content and descriptions of the exhibitions in the gallery through photography, write ups, informative signage and labeling. Galeri Tenun in collaboration with Think City are expected to create interesting cultural programs at the gallery from next year.

With the revival of this cultural hub, along with the burgeoning heritage area of vintage shops, hipster cafes, art galleries and independent boutiques along the historical Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru is shaping up to be a creative and cultural city.

Senijari Signature Collection: Organza Silk Songket Shawls

 

IMG_9533

Senijari presents as its Signature Collection – Senijari Organza Silk Songket.

An exquisite and beautiful way to present songket, Senijari Organza Silk Songket is handwoven in organza silk and metallic threads with intricate, yet contemporary motifs. The minimalist colours of either black or white are chosen to highlight the intricate Songket motifs in silver, gold, antique silver or antique gold metallic threads. Continue reading

The Life of Silk – A visit to Hoi An Silk Village

IMG_7440

The opportunity to visit Hoi An again came again recently with a pleasant surprise. Hoi An, a small, ancient town with UNESCO heritage status in central Vietnam has successfully displayed its various cultural heritage. In my previous blogpost, I mentioned watching artisans making silk lanterns, silver jewellery and porcelain tea sets in Hoi An.

Continue reading