Textiles and fashion in fresh looking tones of blue and turquoise.
Carved motifs on display in an exhibition featuring wood carvings.

Karyaneka, as the name implies, is very much a marketplace of arts and crafts that offers one the opportunity to purchase not only conventional souvenirs and fashion but also decors and wares for the home. There is a myriad of handicrafts from the traditional to the contemporary.

Showcasing crafts from different parts of Malaysia

Attracting tourists, expats and locals alike is the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex situated at Jalan Conlay.

Writer Vicky Fong was happy to meet Mohammad Iqbal Awang Damit, the ceramic artist from Bangkita Ceramic Studio, Selangor. They previously met during the Kokand City crafts festival in Uzbekistan last September as representatives from Malaysia.

Surrounded by towering buildings and other urban developments, the one-stop centre for artsy tourism is distinguished by its Terengganu-style architecture.

The National Craft Day or ‘Hari Kraf Kebangsaan’ 2020 (HKK 2020) marks its 18th edition this year and casts the spotlight on the socio-economic empowerment of people.

Held in conjunction with the Shared Prosperity Vision, the event commenced on February 26 and will run till March 9 at the KL Craft Complex.

A major highlight of HKK 2020 is the crafts sale involving over 680 craft entrepreneurs including 329 on site. Participants from both rural and urban areas include artisans from the Orang Ulu and Orang Asli communities.

“The difference in HKK this year is that it involves the participation of various segments of society. Before, HKK only comprised entrepreneurs but now we also engage the community and have begun to introduce digital marketing methods online,” said Ibrahim Ismail, the Director General of Kraftangan Malaysia.

Twelve exhibitions are on show at HKK 2020. Besides the Malaysian Craft Digital Hub exhibition, visitors will be able to experience the following:

• ‘Perdana‘ Exhibition
• Kraftangan Malaysia 40th year Exhibition
• Visit Malaysia 2020 New Product Exhibition
• Wood Carving in Architectural Exhibition
• Wood Carving Craft Masterpiece Exhibition
• Wood Carving Evolution Exhibition
• National Mastercraftsmen Exhibition
• Mastercraftsmen Inspired Product Exhibition
• Heritage crafts Gifts and Souvenir Exhibition
• Craft Community Product Exhibition
• National Craft Institute Corporate Exhibition

Penan weavers from Sarawak.

Through the Malaysian Craft Digital Hub exhibition, Ibrahim hopes that the evolution and economics of craft products will continue to accelerate with the development of marketing technology strategies in line with the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which emphasises the four segments of e-marketplace, blended learning, digital museums and e-services. The exhibitions are held inside a comfortable container building, specially built for HKK 2020.

During my trips to the KL Craft Complex, I found it vary culturally interesting and though my main objective was to observe and write, I could not resist the urge to shop. There is such a range of crafts from the different parts of Malaysia and although certain materials used might be similar, there are clear distinctions in design, techniques and forms.

Stepping into the main entrance, one is already greeted by a varied display of crafts. This includes examples of Sabahan weaving using pandan which is hard to miss. The mats known as ‘tepo’ by the Bajau tribe or ‘dempas’ by the Iranun tribe, features two layers with the top presenting beautiful ‘kelarai’ motifs while the second is plain.

Colourful Pandan woven mats from Sabah. Exhibited next to the hanging mats are the retro chairs by Kedai Bikin.
A designer from the opening show of HKK 2020 with a model wearing her creation in front of upcycled woven fans from Ranee Artisan Gallery.

Next to these hanging mats are the retro-inspired chairs by Kedai Bikin, whose PVC-based construction makes them ideal for modern interiors. Also of interest is a panel decorated with fan covers that have been upcycled into beautiful receptacles. These are in fact from Ranee Artisan Gallery in Kuching, which works with indigenous communities from the interior of Sarawak.

Rattan and bamboo baskets from all parts of Malaysia

As for the crafts sale held under a large tent, one can easily feel overwhelmed by the choices. Rattan baskets and mats seem in favour amongst European ladies and I myself was excited upon finding a woven ‘mengkuang’ mat at a booth from Terengganu. Men tended to hover around furniture and keris, while others might be snapping up the popular Penan bags made of plastic, with Penan lasses demonstrating the actual weaving.

Who would have thought that tiffins are produced in Johor Bahru?

At first glance, one might assume it is Peranakan. The stainless steel tiffins are beautifully hand painted by women comprising the urban poor, survivors of domestic violence, single mothers and the disabled, under the banner of Jeiwa Power House, Malaysia’s first integrated community empowerment hub located in a shopping mall.

Fadilah Nizar, the founder of Jeiwa Power House posing with the tiffins produced in Johor Bahru.
Designer Abdul Latif from Mukah with his collection.

Its founder, Fadilah Nizar, was a former diplomatic officer whose mother happens to be from Bukit Siol in Kuching. Having married and settled in Johor Bahru, she founded the Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women Association (Jeiwa) and works with professional and career women to help battered women start anew. Tiffins are one of the many products that Jeiwa produces.

As expected, batik and songket are aplenty at the textile and fashion section of HKK 2020. However, I met a fashion designer from Mukah promoting his Latip’s Collection brand which features elements and colours taken from traditional Melanau hats. Abdul Latif is one of Sarawak’s fresh talents in the industry and his participation was sponsored by SEDC.

Interested to have a comprehensive experience of the Malaysian handicraft industry all in one venue? Then head on to HKK 2020 at the KL Craft Complex which is ongoing until March 9.