2017年11月22日星期三

Fanning new life into Terengganu batik craft

Fanning new life into Terengganu batik craft



Beautiful batik: Maryam showing off some of the items for sale at a pop-up booth in Publika.

It was while she was miles away from the country that Maryam Samirah Shamsuddin developed a love for one of Malaysia’s traditional crafts – batik.

Maryam, who is now in her mid-30s, said that she started collecting and learning about batik when she was studying in Britain.

“You miss home and Malaysian items are not accessible, so you start to dig around to find stuff that reminds you of home,” she said.

This love for batik led her to start Cotton and Sago, a social enterprise aimed at helping Kuala Terengganu’s batik artisans, over a year ago.

“At first I read about batik online and learnt how to differentiate the designs of each maker.

“Then I went to Kuala Tereng­ganu and found out that the number of batik producers had shrunk.

“In the 90s, they had over 300 batik artisans, but three years ago, when I visited, they had less than 10 who were still active,” she said, adding that hand-block batik manufacturing is a dying industry.

She said that the slowdown could be due to the fact that artisans were earning very low wages, which led to the younger generation’s reluctance to enter the trade.

“They were earning about 80 sen per sarong!” she added.

Seeing this situation, Maryam set about to create an enterprise that was not only focused on marketing the traditional hand-block batik, but one that will help create a sustainable future for the artisans.

She said that being a social enterprise, Cotton and Sago also tries to help raise the price of the batik products so that artisans can earn more.

“Now it is possible for them to earn a wage of RM1,000 per month, compared to about RM500 a month previously,” she said.

The profit that the enterprise earns, she said, is channelled into training and upskilling the artisans, including teaching them business skills.

Maryam said that there is a need to help revive the Terengganu traditional hand-block batik industry, as it is fast losing its skilled artisans to age.

“There is only one traditional blockmaker left in Terengganu. Now we have invested into getting a few young apprentices to learn from him,” she said.

“Otherwise there is only Pok Ya (Zakaria Ismail) and he is in his 60s.”

The tradition of producing batik needs to be preserved as batik tells the story of Malaysia, she said.

“The history of batik itself is about Malaysia. There is a theory that (the act of wearing) batik was a replacement for tattoos when Islam came into the country.

“The technique itself came from India. The (usage of) pastel colours came from the Chinese traders’ influences.

“Batik is a canvas and every culture that crosses our (country’s) path leaves a bit of its touch on it.”

~News courtesy of The Star~

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