Kraf Tidak Berikat – Craft Unbound in Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur’s Craft Complex promises to be a ‘one-stop craft centre’. It’s quite an extensive series of buildings, including museum, shops, design workshop, café and artist colony. The museum features an exhibition of quite sumptuous gold embroidery. The shop promotes elaborate filigree work as desirable corporate gifts. The textile outlet has a functioning loom, but it is only demonstrated for official functions. And the artist colony consists of mostly painters, though there is a ceramicist and batik workshop.

The overall impression from these buildings is of ‘rich craft’ – craft that celebrates nobility and distinction. The traditional dagger, or keri, features prominently as a traditional symbol of status.

The banners outside the building proclaim ‘kraft ke persada dunia’, which loosely translates as ‘taking craft to the world’. This seems to fit well with KL’s ambition to be a centre for world trade.

There are glimpses of quite striking textile designs, particularly from Sarawak. But the tourist is likely to need to travel to these places themselves in order to get a real taste of Malaysian craft. In the end, craft needs craftspersons.

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