Spreading the keringkam legacy

A photograph of Ranee Margaret and local Malay women wearing keringkam headscarves, displayed at the Ranee Museum in Kuching. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KERINGKAM, the traditional hand embroidery of Sarawak’s Malay community, will take a central role in a new youth development programme set to start next month.

The Aspire programme will be run by the Brooke Trust, a British charity with strong ties to Sarawak, with support from Yayasan Hasanah.

Brooke Trust chairman Jason Brooke said the programme brings in keringkam embroiderers as tutors to teach the craft to disadvantaged youths in juvenile detention and rehabilitation centres.

The participants will also receive tuition and training in practical skills, followed by an internship at the Brooke museums in Kuching, comprising the Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita and the Ranee Museum at the Old Courthouse.

“We will run an accredited programme over the course of 18 months, where the youths will receive about 12 hours of tuition a week.

“We will set them up with the skills and opportunity to go and make use of this accredited qualification at the end of it, maybe through direct employment or networking and introducing them to other artisans who have been working in this field,” Brooke said.

For him, the Aspire programme is significant because it provides direct social support for underprivileged youths by drawing inspiration from the Brooke Trust’s historical roots in Sarawak, particularly in connection with the Ranee Museum.

One of Ranee Margaret’s keringkam pieces on display at the Ranee Museum in Kuching. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The StarOne of Ranee Margaret’s keringkam pieces on display at the Ranee Museum in Kuching. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

The museum, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, highlights the life and legacy of Ranee Margaret, the wife of Sarawak’s second Rajah, Charles Brooke, who ruled from 1868 to 1917.

“The Ranee was known as a patron of keringkam and songket. We have a number of her keringkam pieces which led to the Ranee Museum to showcase these items.

“But what we wanted to do was to reconnect with these roots. We don’t preserve these things just because they’re old. We want them to tell a story and to have a meaning for the people, so that they can connect to their own heritage.

“Looking at some of the needs in the community, we had interest in youths in difficult circumstances, particularly youth offenders, and we wanted to find ways to give them inspiration, a sense of rootedness and a stake in society, as well as practical training and opportunities,” he said.

Brooke Museums manager Liza Sideni said the Aspire programme will not only train the youths but teach them the history of keringkam.

“We want them to know why we are sharing this heritage with them, as they are the new generation who will sustain the art.

“At the moment, we’re working with a few local embroiderers who are helping to give input to the keringkam module and will be training the youths,” she said.

For a start, 50 youths will be selected from institutions such as Sekolah Tunas Bakti and Taman Seri Puteri Kuching to take part in the programme.

“The delivery of the programme is scheduled to start at the beginning of June. This will be a pilot programme for 50 participants, identified as youths who will be keen and enthusiastic and have a couple of years left of their term in the institutions they’re in,” Brooke said.

“We’re looking at youth offenders in particular who have a real opportunity to change course.

“Towards the latter part of the programme, we have modules on entrepreneurship, starting your own business and managing finances. It’s very practical stuff, along with the artisanal side of learning the craft of keringkam.

“So they don’t have to practise keringkam at the end of this but they will have transferable skills that can be applied to other things, such as concentration, dedication, determination, managing themselves and the world, networking and human interaction.”

The courses will be delivered on site at the institutions, with a public exhibition planned at the end of the two-year programme.

If it proves to be successful, the Brooke Trust hopes the programme can be scaled up and rolled out to other parts of Sarawak.

“We can also help other people to start up the programme, using the modules in other places.

“It doesn’t have to be delivered by us,” Brooke said, adding that Yayasan Hasanah had been “wonderful and energetic” in supporting the programme.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

StarExtra , keringkam , legacy


Next In Nation

SPM sees biggest improvement in English, best performance in BM
INTERACTIVE: Have our SPM students really improved?
Revamp STEM education, experts urge
Personal safety trumps payout
S’wak eyes more solar projects at Bakun, Murum dams
Premier Li concludes successful visit
Wee: Let ties flourish for a prosperous shared future
I merely served as a ‘rubber stamp’ in SRC, says ex-director
Making great strides with prosthetic leg
Start applying for hotel permits soon, homestay operators told

Others Also Read