This fabric, a part of Malaysia's national identity


This fabric, a part of Malaysia's national identity

For travellers who are Malaysia-bound and love artwork, Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex should be a place to stop and shop at. Located on Jalan Conlay in the heart of the city, the centre carries diverse, extravagant artworks of Malaysia.

Here, apart from an alluring range of batik works on display, the Batik and Weaving Gallery depicts the art of crafting batik on cotton and silk.

I came across these batik works during my maiden visit to Kuala Lumpur around seven years ago. Today, they not only embrace high-street fashion in Malaysia, but have lent a national identity to the country. The renowned Malaysian batik works make for bright gifts.

The pages of history say that the art of batik-making arrived in Malaysian Archipelago in the 16th century, and was highly influenced by the Javanese style of batik-making. With time, Malaysia has created its own batik creations that are simple, delicate and colourful.

The most popular batik works make use of large floral motifs on silk and cotton fabrics. Designs of butterflies, leaves, birds and geometry are common, and each state of Malaysia has developed its own designs. A distinct feature of this batik is the absence of faunal motifs.

The silken batik shirts and ladies apparel are labelled ‘party wear’ in the country. They are not heavy on the pocket. Tourists can also buy batik wall hangings to brighten up their homes.

What’s in vogue in Java and Malaysian Archipelago? Batik sarong, a traditional headscarf used by women. But it’s also used as a wrap around the waist by both men and women. In Malaysia’s East Coast, womenfolk use the entire sarong as a headscarf.

Bhatik craft is of two kinds in Malaysia - made by block-stamping method or hand-painted process.

Block-stamping involves the continuous process of applying wax with a metal or wooden block on the fabric and stamping onto it to form designs. Colour is then added.

These days, designers use batik sarongs for interior decoration. The government of Malaysia is endorsing batik as its national dress, and is encouraging homegrown designers to experiment more with it.

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