KUCHING: Sarawak will continue to support a resurgence in traditional crafts by identifying more living legends, says Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
He said the state Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, in collaboration with Society Atelier Sarawak, presented certificates of recognition to an initial group of master craft artists last year.
"A list of living legends and young masters was made, and it will continue to be updated. We will also support Society Atelier Sarawak's publication of a coffee table book and video documentation on the subject," he said when opening the World Craft Cities network forum at the new Sarawak Museum Campus here on Friday (Nov 8).
Abang Johari said the state has seen revival of interest in Malay kain songket and keringkam (embroidery with gold thread) while the beadwork of the Orang Ulu had become a fashion accessory for both men and women.
This culminated in Kuching's accreditation as a world craft city by the World Crafts Council on Nov 28 last year.
"We are proud to be the first city in Malaysia to be conferred this recognition, joining the ranks of other renowned cities like Jaipur (India), Isfahan (Iran) and Jogjakarta (Indonesia)," Abang Johari said.
Society Atelier Sarawak president Edric Ong said 20 "living legends" and several "young masters" had so far been recognised for their work in crafts involving songket, ikat weaving, wood carving, beadwork, batik, rattan, bemban and bamboo.
He said the living legends were recognised for 30 years of experience while the young masters required 15 years. Both must also be recognised by their own communities for excellence in craftsmanship.
"We have another category of emerging craft communities, For example, a community in Betong makes crafts from recycled fan guards, while kain songket weavers have set up workshops in Gedong and some Penan communities.
"As mentioned by the Chief Minister, we are working on getting funding from the government and corporate sector to publish a book highlighting their stories and video documentation of their skills for posterity," he said.
"Several of legends are in Kuching, such as Michael Lim and Ramsay Ong who are batik artists. We also have Mastura Sidek doing keringkam. She's almost 90 but has groomed a second generation who are young masters," he said.