Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah expressed her gratitude to the Sarawak government and the related agencies for the initiatives taken to establish cooperation with various parties in efforts to develop and promote the country’s heritage art and crafts.

Describing all the initiatives as a noble effort to preserve the various heritage arts of the Land of the Hornbills, Tuanku Azizah said this would not only be able to elevate craft arts and handicraft products, but would also ensure that their uniqueness would not be forgotten over time.

Tunku Azizah said efforts and willingness of practitioners of the various craft arts in Sarawak - songket, Keringkam embroidery, Pua' Kumbu weaving, basket and mat weaving, bead embroidery - in producing their products with modern techniques would help preserve and improve the heritage crafts of Sarawak’s ethnic groups.

Tunku Azizah, who is also royal patron of Malaysian Prisons Department for Arts and Crafts, said efforts to preserve and elevate national art heritage and handicraft products, whether they are from the Malay culture, Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia or the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, must be carried out continuously, including through skills training and rehabilitation programmes among prison inmates.

"I brought the wardens from the Penor and Bentong prisons (Pahang) who are experts (in weaving and handicraft art). I said let's work together, you teach us how to weave Songket in Sarawak and we will teach you the Pahang way.

"So what you see behind me is the collaborative work between Penor, Bentong and Puncak Borneo prisons, with the support of the Sarawak government," said Her Majesty in an interview on art initiatives collaboration between Sarawak, Pahang and several parties in conjunction with London Craft Week here.

Earlier, wife of Sarawak Yang Dipertua Negeri Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib, Sarawak premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, his wife Puan Sri Juma'ani Tuanku Bujang and Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, paid a courtesy call on Her Majesty when they visited the Malaysian International Pavilion exhibition in conjunction with London Craft Week at the Malaysian High Commission, Belgrave Square.

Tunku Azizah also officiated the launch of the website (Sarawak Heritage) by Centexs Commercial, owned by the Centre for Technology Excellence Sarawak.

The website is an e-commerce platform to promote Sarawak's craft and heritage products such as songket, keringkam, textiles and craft accessories produced by Centexs trainees, the local entrepreneur community and inmates of Puncak Borneo Prison.

Tunku Azizah also expressed the hope that the prison rehabilitation programmes, especially on songket weaving and other arts and crafts, could equip the inmates with skills and give them a sense of hope for the future.

"Last year we talked about giving them hope... so it is our duty to train them so that when they come out they have something to look forward to... weaving calms the soul too,” she said adding that the inmates were able to pick up the skill in three months.

Malaysia's participation in last year's London Craft Week which revolved around the theme 'weaving with hope' featured Pahang Museum archival fabrics and a collection of Riau-Pahang baju kurung and samping as well as a weaver who is a former convict.

Meanwhile, Abang Johari, when met after visiting the exhibition, said the Sarawak government would continue to support efforts to elevate and promote Sarawak's craft arts and heritage products at the international level.

He said the creation of the website was apt and it would facilitate business and dissemination of information.

"Centexs is working together with our indigenous artisans to preserve our heritage in terms of craftsmanship and that will be done systematically, but what is important, we want to reach out to the market and for that reason we have Centexs Commercial to promote our products overseas,” he said.

On the state’s maiden participation in the programme organised by Royal Pahang Weave Foundation in conjunction with London Craft Week, the Sarawak premier expressed his gratitude for inviting the state government and commended Her Majesty's continued efforts to highlight traditional handicrafts of Sarawak's ethnic groups.

He said the collaboration between the three states involving Sarawak, Pahang and Terengganu in the craft industry would certainly be able to enhance efforts to preserve arts and heritage products as well as help promote them at the global level.

"We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Raja Permaisuri Agong for inviting Sarawak to be part of the delegation to promote Malaysia's culture, which for now is a collaboration between Pahang and Sarawak as well Terengganu... the promotion will introduce our crafts and products to the international and global markets,” he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency