Abang Jo moots setting up centres to elevate Songket Sarawak from kampung pride to global chic

Abang Johari delivering his speech tonight (June 28, 2022) at the ICH Humanity & Community Awards ceremony held in Dewan Santapan at the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) here.

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By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, June 28: Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg proposes establishing songket centres throughout Sarawak in order to elevate Songket Sarawak from a “kampong item” to a globally renown product.

He cited Korean kimchi, which originated in a village setting but has since become a global item sought by many.

He said by adding value and expanding the value chain for Sarawak’s Songket, opportunities are created for practitioners to be a part of the State’s process of becoming a high-income society by 2030.

“Having an intricate art like songket recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) not only endows it with social importance, but also economic significance.

“Its recognition enhances the tourism industry in Malaysia.

“And Songket Sarawak contributes to cultural tourism in Sarawak, allowing us to promote our cultural heritage, arts, crafts, and traditions through it,” he said earlier tonight at the ICH Humanity & Community Awards ceremony held in Dewan Santapan at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here.

Abang Johari asserted Songket Sarawak has the potential to play a significant role in the development of a cultural heritage base (ICHLinks) in the global community.

“In turn, this cultural heritage base offers the opportunity for sustainable development of ICH in Sarawak.

“The development of ICH in Sarawak will then help contribute to the local entrepreneur economy, and enhance the growth of Sarawak’s overall economy,” he added.

Abang Johari, who is also the Minister of Finance and New Economy, went on to say that songket, or any other cultural item for that matter, such as Pua Kumbu, can be encouraged as an industry.

“To do this, we can create songket centres across Sarawak, which offer spaces for production, education, and training.

“This will not only inject a boost of energy into the local economy, but will also provide a place for each community to familiarise themselves with the art of songket,” he added.

He also opined that songket centres could eventually become cooperatives that help market Songket Sarawak as a product, allowing communities to sustain the songket industry in their own districts and be creative in how they market their songket.

“We then must ask, how do we encourage a market and demand for songket?

“Production is one thing, but without a market, songket will still be at a standstill from an economic point of view.

“To help with demand, we can encourage the use of songket at State functions or official events, as well as during traditional performances such as silat or dance exhibitions,” he disclosed.

Furthermore, Abang Johari, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources and Urban Development, opined that songket can be incorporated into many things and is not limited to clothing.

“It doesn’t have to be just a “samping” or “sarong.”

“Songket cloth and motifs can be incorporated into merchandise such as purses, face masks, passport covers, and table runners.

“Songket motifs can be digitised too. The creative industry has the chance to contribute to the sustainability of songket by innovating and digitising songket motifs in their designs,” he clarified.

In addition, the Premier of Sarawak acknowledged that ICH is not only about safeguarding Sarawak’s precious heritage and having it recognised globally, but also about allowing the local community to create economic resources from heritage.

“When both these things happen—safeguarding and according to economic value—then we can ensure the continuity and sustainability of our ICH from generation to generation.

“This is very much in line with Sarawak’s Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030) which seeks to ensure the sustainability of our resources,” Abang Johari pointed out. — DayakDaily