Help In Sight for Songket WeaversApril 7, 2009
SONGKET, a traditional hand-woven textile is always associated with Malay royals and special occasions. The textile can cost from RM200 to as much as RM40,000 a piece. Yet most of the weavers earn a meagre sum for their work.
“A piece of songket can take from a few days or longer to weave depending on the design. “Yet it is sad that most songket weavers are being paid very little for their work,” said Datin Noor Azlina Yunus.. But now there is hope for the traditional weavers from small villages as the Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah (YTNZ) has made it its mision to help improve their economic status. The foundation has lined up various activities which include providing fair employment and funding for skills training for songket weavers in Terengganu and Sarawak. “The foundation has set up a system to manufacture fabrics in Terengganu and Sarawak and this will provide employment and better income for the weavers,” said Noor Azlina, who has written a book entitled Songket Revolution.
The 144-page hard cover coffee-table book, traces the rich history of songket and its latest development. The book was launched at Carcosa Seri Negara recently by Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, who is also the foundation’s patron. Also present at the launch were the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. “I’ve always had a passion for songket and kept telling myself to do something to help the industry. “Now I am glad that we are indeed doing something about it. Hopefully, we will be able to help the weavers at the same time,” Noor Azlina said. She said the songket had come a long way in terms of their design, material and colours which determine the price. Noor Azlina’s book also features a segment on lightweight songket in silk, organza and crepe. The latest development in songket is the brainchild of the foundation’s director of textile design and production Dr June Ngo. The new style songket is significantly different from the conventional songket in terms of texture, dimensions, colours and designs.
The contemporary songket is lighter and malleable with good draping qualities. It was woven in a variety of new, fine yarns to produce a wider and longer material. Songket Revolution also presents creations by Malaysia’s well known fashion designers like Melinda Looi, Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, Radzuan Radzwill and Rizalman Ibrahim. Labelled under the Royal Terengganu Songket brand, the designers have created a collection of high-end fashion using the new material derived from the traditional textile.
Noor Azlina said she hoped the book would promote the uniqueness of songket not only in Malaysia but also abroad. The book can be purchased at all MPH stores, arts and heritage centre and at the Tuanku Nur Zahirah Foundation office at RM380 each. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be channelled to support the foundation’s cause, especially in efforts to improve the living condition of the weavers. Songket Revolution is also on display at the Malaysian Handicraft Festival at Harrod’s London.