A Lord Of The Rings-inspired baju kurung, anyone?


  • Living
  • Monday, 11 Sep 2017

Traditional brooches and necklaces usually worn with Malay dress are given a colourful new twist by online jewellery retailer Werks & Wit. Photo: Werks & Wit

Traditional elements of Malaysian culture do not have to be at odds with modernity – with the right approach, they can even thrive and reach a whole new audience.

This is the driving force behind several local initiatives that have reimagined elements of traditional culture with a contemporary twist.

Since 2012, Fusion Wayang Kulit has been reviving Kelantanese wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), but with a healthy infusion of pop culture.

Working closely with accredited tok dalang (master puppeteer) Pak Dain, the group creates traditional shadow puppets inspired by the likes of Star Wars, super-heroes, and Japanese anime. It is most popular for its staging of the Star Wars-inspired wayang kulit show, Peperangan Bintang, complete with characters like Sangkala Vedeh (Darth Vader), Tuan Puteri Leia (Princess Leia) and Perantau Langit (Luke Skywalker).

Fusion Wayang Kulit founder Tintoy Chuo says that what began as a bit of fun has become a cohesive effort to preserve and showcase a dying Malaysian art.

Traditional elements of culture reworked for a new generation
Chuo with some of his pop-culture inspired puppets. He’s holding ‘Batman’ on the left and ‘Darth Vader’ on the right. Photo: The Star/ONG SOON HIN

“We got a lot of compliments about how we were making this traditional art more accessible, and we realised that it is important for us as Malaysians to find and hold on to our identity,” he says.

A connection to identity was also what led sisters Warda and Wirda Nokman to start Werks & Wit, an online handpainted jewellery business that features traditional Malay accessories like brooches and dokoh (tiered traditional necklaces) in bold, contemporary hues.

Warda, whose family is from Melaka, says that her fondest childhood memory was of her grandmother dressing up in her kebaya, complete with traditional accessories.

“But the current generation tends to think of these accessories as being old-fashioned. So instead of the usual gold or silver, we thought of giving the jewellery a pop of colour to make them more modern and wearable,” she says.

Founded in 2012, Werks & Wit aims to make these pieces a part of daily wear and not just for cultural occasions.

Traditional elements of culture reworked for a new generation
Traditional brooches and necklaces usually worn with Malay dress are given a colourful new twist by online jewellery retailer Werks & Wit. Photo: Werks & Wit

Traditional elements of culture reworked for a new generation
Warda (left) and Wirda create traditional Malay necklaces and brooches with a modern twist. Photo: The Star/LOW BOON TAT

“We don’t want these traditional designs to die out. We want Malaysians to take pride in wearing them, and to be proud of our culture,” says Wirda.

Illustrator Charis Loke’s desire to make Malaysian traditional wear more “cool” led to the Geeky Baju Project, a series of illustrations where traditional outfits like the baju kurung and salwar kameez are reimagined with fantasy and video game themes.

Available for purchase as art prints and postcards, her designs include baju kurung and kebaya inspired by The Lord Of The Rings, salwar kameez with elements from the Watchmen graphic novel, and baju Melayu based on The Hunger Games.

“Cultures evolve and grow, they’re not static. Adapting and improvising traditional elements, when done respectfully and purposefully, is part of that,”

Traditional elements of culture reworked for a new generation
Loke’s Geeky Baju Project re-imagines Malaysian traditional wear with
fantasy themes. Photo: CHARIS LOKE

says Loke.

“We are best positioned to tell stories about Malaysian culture because we grew up living it. If we don’t tell stories about what we know, well then, who will?”

 

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
   

Next In Living

This campaign encourages drivers in Scotland to give cyclists space
The private jet trips polluting France's skies
Big Smile, No Teeth: All I want for Father's Day is my little boy calling me dad
Relocating in old age: How to make the stressful transition smoother
Human Writes: Our treatment of migrant workers will come back to haunt us
Dear Thelma: My once-happy daughter is now paranoid and depressed
Katz Tales: Integrating a new kitten into the household (with older cats)
5 amazing traditional paper-cutting styles
Why British artist Peter Blake is one of the world’s greatest pop art icons
Can Darwinian beekeeping help protect the honey bees?

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers