Last year I posted about Malaysian songket - the luxurious, labor intensive, hand woven brocade cloth - and the Queen’s initiative to improve the lives of women and encourage training in the disappearing art of songket weaving through the organization Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah. A second post on songket highlighted Habibah Zikri a designer and master of the craft who owns and runs Bibah Songket a family business.
So it’s GREAT to see the latest issue of Monocle Magazine featuring a regional profile dedicated to Sarawak, Malaysia. This nice cardstock pull-out is packed with facts and capsule sized stories categorized into sections including:
Nature and Wildlife:
By the numbers -- On the island of Borneo, Sarawak is home to “34 national parks, 6 wildlife sanctuaries and 8 nature reserves, with 185 species of mammals, 530 species of birds and 186 species of snakes…..”
Heritage and Culture: Sarawak is home to nearly 30 distinct indiginous groups!
Food and Drink: Including a mouth watering description of Sarawak Laksa – a delicious, spicy seafood and noodle stew. After looking around for a recipe to share, I settled on this one from Baby Sumo at the Eat Your Heart Out - Goodyfoodies Blog.
And also a lively section on Design and Craft including a profile of Tanoti House.
June Ngo, a textile educator and designer at the University of Sarawak is now co-managing this privatized spin off of the aforementioned Yayasan. Apparently Yayasan decided to focus on their operations in Terengganu and close this arm in Kuching. Ngo and partner Jacqueline Fong saved the business and continue to focus on the original mission: Provide training and support for women learning the weaving process and techniques, and protect the heritage craft by producing traditional and updated motifs and products with an eye toward both a regional and a global audience.
The Borneo Post wrote a two part article (part one) + (part two) with more background on the development of Tanoti House, and the rigorous training process and quality standards at Tanoti. At the time the article was written, local and international demand for their products well exceeded supply and they were looking to bring on more weavers. Have a look at this brief but impressive video of the production process at Tanoti House – it’s incredible!
There are a few songet table runners on the web site sourced from Terengganu and some unfinished cloth to be added to the textiles section soon. When you see the work that goes into creating a piece of songket fabric, you can understand why the cost is dear!
Given the array of craft and art and activities and adventures available -- including the annual Rainforest World Music Festival -- Sarawak is at the top of my travel list!