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May 18, 2023
  • Songket, a traditional handwoven fabric, is intricate and exquisite, with vibrant colors and beautiful patterns – all reflecting the workmanship of skilled artisans who can spend months at a time on one piece of this traditional art form.

    Once donned only by rulers, members of royalty, and dignitaries, these days people from various walks of life wear “kain songket”, mainly on festive occasions.

    The Malay weaving technique, which involves inserting gold or silver thread between base threads, is traditionally passed down from one generation to the next.

    In December, Malaysian songket was added to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list – a well-deserved achievement, according to professor Norwani Mohd Nawawi, the author of “Songket Malaysia” and “Ikat Limar: The Ancient Malay Textile”.

    The retired lecturer tells FMT that songket used to be known as “kain emas”, or gold cloth, because of the actual gold thread that was used. However, over time, this has been replaced by metallic threads.

    The 64-year-old – who, like her great-grandmother, is a weaver – waxes lyrical about songket. “When I see it, I think: how can a person weave such a fine and beautiful piece of cloth?”

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