Promoting Sarawak songket

Sarawak Songket. Photo: Sarawak Tourism Board

By Nur Ashikin Louis & Tania Lam

KUCHING: The inaugural Sarawak Music Fashion Galore (Samfag) 2020 held at Riverside Majestic Hotel here last Saturday night (Dec 5) left many guests in awe.

Themed ‘Enchanting Evening with Sarawak Songket’, the spectacular event showcased a collection of 31 songket designs from three fashion designers, namely Anna Sue, Ben Nazry and Wan Bainun.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and wife Datuk Amar Jumaani Tuanku Bujang were present at the event organised by Malaysian Association of Arts and Culture Activists Kuching (MACPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac).

The event was arguably the first in elevating traditional heritage Sarawak songket for the Songket Malaysia nomination list of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) representatives on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) next year.

During his speech, the chief minister noted that among other notable efforts to promote the state songket was the State Prison Department’s role to train the inmates in songket-weaving.

Anna Sue walks through the models exhibiting her songket designs at the stage of Samfag 2020 last Saturday night. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

Anna Sue (fashion designer)

‘Sarawak songket is very special and expensive. We, fashion designers, have to select only prestigious events to retain its high value as a traditional heritage. The state government’s initiative to train inmates in songket-weaving is a very noble idea.’ 

Deputy Commissioner Mohamad Rosidek Musa

Deputy Commissioner Mohamad Rosidek Musa (State Prison Department director)

‘The State Prison Department has been given the role to train our inmates in songket-weaving. Therefore, we will be able to produce industrial workers for big-scale songket production. So far, we have trained about 40 inmates. If the state government can channel an allocation for us to build a training block, we will be able to train 200 inmates at any one time.’

Francesca Ang

Francesca Ang (Society Atelier Sarawak secretary)

“Sarawak songket is different than those of other states because we use the hidden thread technique to ensure that the back of the fabric is also neatly woven. Hence, the design appears inside and outside.  We should carry on with the tradition and the culture so that it won’t die down.”

Estyzurina Mohamad Rambli

Estyzurina Mohamad Rambli (teacher)

“I think the Sarawak songket can be incorporated into contemporary fashion and modern styles as we have seen at Samfag 2020. I am also really excited to learn that the state government has made efforts to highlight the Sarawak songket for Unesco nomination as the songket is part of our heritage and culture.”

Andi Nur Aqilah

Andi Nur Aqilah (student)

‘Fashion shows in Sarawak such as Samfag 2020 have influenced a lot of people, especially those in their teen years. These teenagers will become adults who are able to uphold Sarawak’s culture and heritage.’