Songket Sarawak motifs can be inventoried as intangible cultural heritage in Malaysia

Abdul Karim (fourth left) presenting a memento to Kim witnessed by Abang Johari (third left) and others. Photo credit: Sarawak Information Department

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By Ashley Sim and Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 29: Songket motifs, designs and elements like “pucuk rebung” can be inventoried as intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in Malaysia so that their origins, history and cultural value will not be lost in the passage of time as well as through derivatives and variations.

Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah emphasised that this is important to ensure better protection and that the original forms of Songket Sarawak remain identifiable no matter how it may be incorporated into a digital design or textile pattern.

“To most, songket is just a beautifully woven cloth with gold or silver thread. Most people aren’t aware that songket has its own set of patterns intrinsic to certain regions.

“This tells us that historically, songket is not an art form only practised in Malaysia. The art is also practised and adopted by people from different areas in the Nusantara region,” he said.

He highlighted this at the inaugural ICH Humanity and Community Awards which was officiated at by Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here last night.

Abang Johari (on stage, fifth left) flanked by his wife Juma’ani on his right, Abdul Karim (third left) and other distinguished guests in a group photo with award recipients. Photo credit: Sarawak Information Department

With this, Abdul Karim pointed out the need to preserve and safeguard these original songket motifs, elements and designs which have been passed down through generations which in turn can promote and help develop intercultural dialogue as well as encourage mutual respect for different cultures.

“This ultimately, is one of the benefits of having ICH in the first place. It allows us, as people, to be cognisant that we are not so different from each other, no matter where we come from,” he added.

Noting the lack of attention given to ICH even though the concept has existed for some time, he said Sarawak wants to play a role in enhancing awareness and appreciation for ICH in Malaysia, not only among the public but also in organisations that may have some access or contact with forms of ICH.

“We want the general public and communities to know that our ICH is something to be treasured and safeguarded,” he said.

As such, he added that the ICH Awards is a way to introduce and highlight the importance of safeguarding ICH to the community.

“With these awards, we also celebrate and recognise those who continue to practise the art of songket locally.

“Hopefully, this will encourage interest in future generations to learn about songket-making, to appreciate its cultural value, and sustain its existence in the world,” he said.

Abang Johari’s wife Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang, DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar, Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk Sebastian Ting and Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, as well as director-general of International Information and Networking Centre for ICH in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of Unesco Kim Jisung were among those present. — DayakDaily