Traditional Handicrafts of Malaysia
Traditional handicrafts of Malaysia form an invaluable part of the nation’s cultural heritage. Equally certain is their endangered position, their need to be nurtured and kept alive. The handicrafts portray a historical and socio-economic background which provides perspective and a deeper understanding of their place in Malaysian society.
The days of aristocratic patronage are over and changing times bring changing tastes.
There is a need for a new strategy to make these crafts economically visible without destroying their aesthetic value through commercialization and standardization.
Conscious of these changing circumstances, the Postal Services Department has decided to include 3 handicrafts in its special issue of postage stamps
10c – Terendak Sabah – Sabah Hats
15c – Kain Songket – Gold-Threaded Cloth
75c – Tembikar – Sarawak Pottery
Seraung or ‘Sabah’s Traditional Hat’ is widely used by the people in the state of Sabah particularly the indigenous communities such as the Kadazan or Dusun from the districts of Penampang, Tambunan, Papar and Keningau.
It is the product of skilled handicraft work using raw materials found in the state of Sabah. Seraung is conical in shape and bamboo embroidered and is weaved together with rotan at the cylindrical base. With the use of local dye, Seraung is colored with a background of light yellow and wavy stripes in black and red running from top to bottom the pattern and shape of a pyramid.
Seraung is traditionally used on various occasions such as padi harvesting times in several districts and also during Kadazan Celebrations popularly known in Kadazan as ‘Tadau Kaanamatan’. Tadau Kaanamatan is celebrated annually around the 13th of May by Kadazans in the state of Sabah.
Songket is a traditional Malaysian hand woven fabric. It is woven on the traditional two-paddle floor looms by Malays women in the North Eastern Coast of the Peninsular. Chemically dyed yarns of silk or cotton, and sometimes, a combination of both is used as wefts and warps of the fabric. Gold or metallic thread is inlaid as tapestry to form the intricate designs.
If one studies the woven pieces of Songket and other woven fabrics one can see that Songket has its own special technique of waving and is different from other woven pieces. Songket, like in brocade, has no floating over shots of the waft, to emphasize the design. In Songket, all warp threads are carefully counted and arranged in such a way that no over shots will appear on the right side of the fabric. Usually, the traditional songket designs are very intricate, metallic or gold threaded, covering the whole fabric, with paneling (Kepala) decoratively adorned with bamboo shoot motifs. Each songket has either one or two paneling followed by a smaller border running horizontally on each side of the panel. Most of the time they have only one long elaborate panel. In traditional songket, they even have songket in ‘ikat’ called ‘kain cindai’.
Pottery is a handicraft popularly produced by the people of Sabah, Sarawak, Sayong in the state of Perak and Mambong in Kelantan. Sarawak pottery is intricately decorated with unique ethnic motifs. Glazed and unglazed, shapes follow the lines of Chinese porcelain originally traded in the riverside jungle areas of North Borneo many centuries ago.
The ceramic pottery of Sayong, Perak is normally blackish in color, and mostly used as water coolers because of its porosity, while Mambong pottery consists of brownish red earthen pots, mainly for cooking.