Malaysia showcases 'abstract nature' at London Craft Week 2023

LONDON: Leveraging the opportunity to tell stories of its people through the language of craft, Malaysia returns to London Craft Week (LCW) here this year to showcase the nation's heritage crafts from various ethnic, which began Saturday till May 14.

With the theme of 'Abstract Nature’, the Malaysian pavilion at the Malaysian High Commission in Belgrave Square features Malaysia’s rich cultural landscape through its extraordinary craft traditions, and highlights craft skills that have their roots in the country’s indigenous communities - Orang Asli folk of Semelai from Pahang, Mah Meri (Selangor) in Peninsular Malaysia and Orang Asal ethnic groups of Sabah and Sarawak.

This is Malaysia’s second participation in the LCW, offering live demonstrations and workshops, among others, on wood carving, textile gilding or a textile-decorating technique (telepuk), basketry, mat-weaving, songket (brocade), embroidery and tribal beading.

Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, who leads the Malaysian delegation for the exhibition, said the products on display also include Telepuk Terengganu and Songket Terengganu; weaving products by the Semelai people of Pahang (Anyaman Pandakan), Mah Meri weaving heritage (Anyaman Pandan) and ancestors sculptures from Selangor.

Highlights from Sabah are Anyaman Tikar and Anyaman Ribu-Ribu while Sarawak’s weaving crafts include Anyaman Bergerang, Ikat Iban Sarawak, Anyaman Penan and embroidery (Keringkam Sarawak).

Designed and curated by Judith Clark alongside architect Ryan Cook, the ‘Abstract Nature’ exhibition highlights craft skills that have their roots in the country’s indigenous communities, displaying motifs and materials from the Malaysian landscape, decorative schemes of abstracted flora and fauna are embedded within intricate woodcarvings, basketry and plaiting, creating evocative narrative histories.

Clark is a professor of Fashion and Museology at the London College of Fashion, University of Arts London and Course Leader for MA Fashion Curation.

The craft on display belongs to the intimate decoration of domestic interiors and everyday clothing and ceremonial. It gives the impetus to explore the country’s multiple textile traditions, including handwoven brocades, warp-ikat fabrics, embroidery and intricate beadwork.

The exhibition itself, re-crafted from materials from Her Majesty’s inaugural exhibition themed 'Weaving Hope' last year, reveals not only a commitment to sustainable design but underlines the transformational power of craft.

"Last year, we participated in London Craft Week by promoting the heritage textiles of the Tenun Pahang Diraja and it was quite successful when it attracted 3,000 visitors including fashion designers.

"Following the good response, this time we decided to feature local heritage craft products because most of the products were made by the older generations and will disappear if not revived,” said Tunku Azizah.

Her Majesty said there’s a high demand for such craft products and hence, ‘dying arts’ such as telepuk and keringkam must be preserved and revived by wearing or using them more often.

Tunku Azizah, who is also the patron of the Royal Pahang Weaving Foundation said seven master craftsmen have been flown to demonstrate their crafts at the exhibition.

They were Norhaiza Noordin (Telepuk Terengganu), Maznah Unyan (Mah Meri pandan leaf weaving), Ros Salleh (Keringkam Sarawak), Shirley Vilin (Iban’s Pua Kumbu), Samri Abdul Rahman (ancestral carving), Helena David (Orang Ulu Sarawak tribal beading) and Senia Jugi (Ketapu Tunjang - handwoven Iban headgear and Bemban weaving).

Apart from the exhibition, workshops are also being held on Ikat Iban (Pua’ Kumbu from Sarawak), Bunga Moyang (leaf plaiting by the Mah Meri tribe), basketry (Sarawak), Keringkam (Malay/Melanau) and Sulam Manik (beading by the Orang Ulu, Sarawak).

Forest-based crafts, most notably basketry using rotan, bemban, nipah and sago leaf as well as handwoven crafts using natural fibres such as terendak (sunhat), Bergerang mats using pandan leaves from Sarawak and mengkuang leaf mats are also being displayed.

Apart from Borneo’s unique crafts, Tunku Azizah said the Terengganu Songket is also being featured prominently at this year's exhibition.

Malaysia's participation in the exhibition is led by the Royal Pahang Weave Foundation and supported by the federal government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the Pahang and Sarawak state governments, Kraftangan Malaysia and Royal Terengganu Songket.

Aim at spotlighting unsung creative communities, the ninth edition of the LCW sees craftspeople, designers, curators and craft entrepreneurs from all over the world thronged to London for a week of workshops, tours, and art fairs taking place across the city.

LCW showcases several featured projects - Artisan Chelsea, The Mills Fabrica, Serapian, Delvaux, Pimlico Road Series and international pavilions - Austria, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Events are being held at separate locations - studios, national museums, contemporary galleries, luxury boutiques - around London, from Soho to South Kensington, Hammersmith to Hackney and new hubs, such as East London and Park Royal.- Bernama

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