One of the most unique elements of Malaysia is in its arts and crafts. These are 2 distinctive elements which are often used interchangeably although they are totally different areas altogether. On one hand, arts refer to all types of modern art that include the like of paintings, sculptures, installations and other forms of modern art. On the other hand, crafts refer to the more traditional form of art that include the likes of souvenir items and such.
Due to the multi-cultural and diverse community of Malaysia which is made up of many different races and religions, the country is home to some of the richest cultures and its crafts. You will find that there are many types of items that range from stationeries to textile, key chains to pewter items and many more.
Such items are usually loved by tourists who buy them as decorative items while certain object are common household products as well. There are 3 major races in Malaysia which are the Malays, Chinese and Indians as well as tens of other communities and ethnic groups, all of which have their own set of traditions and consequently, their own set of crafts as well.
Perhaps the most common type of craft in Malaysia is the Batik textile. This is the design of a type of textile which is commonly used to make clothing and apparels. Batik art is said to have originated from Indonesia and has since ‘migrated’ to Malaysia where it is known for its beautiful and floral design which is then used to make apparels. Today, Batik can be seen on shirts, blouse and even table cloth. The Batik designed men shirts are also regarded as a formal wear seen by Malaysians of all races during official functioned. Batik textile is most commonly found in most states while it is most prominent in Kelantan. It is known that Malaysian batik is one of the best in the world where they are made through 4 different ways namely free-style drawing, silk-screen, tie-dyed and block-printed. The uniqueness of this art has also been adopted by many modern Malaysian artists who have used the techniques in their artwork.
Carvings are also very common in Malaysian craft where the popular tribes known for these type of art include the Mah Meri and the Jah Hut. These are 2 tribes of the aborigines in Peninsular Malaysia who are known for their art where they carve mythical beings that are told in their legends and local folklore. The carvings are usually made on mangrove tree wood where they are commonly painted in maroon. They are commonly found in Carey Island around the coasts of Selangor while their crafts have also been sold through most of the souvenir shops around the country.
Another popular form of Malaysian craft is the weaving technique. Perhaps the most distinguishable form is the Kain Songket or Songket cloth which is very popular in the eastern states of Kelantan and Terengganu. This is typically a hand-woven fabric textile which is laced with gold and silver threads where among its techniques include the likes of the ‘Tekat’ which is gold embroidery technique known for its historical use in Malay weddings. The Kain Songket is one of the most unique designs which is very synonymous with Malaysian crafts where it has since been adopted and designed for other items like tablecloths, handbags and even tissue-box covers.
If you are more into crafts that involved metal, then you will find a lot of pewter crafts around Malaysia. Pewter art is very common in Malaysia as tin used to be one of the largest industries and today, you can find some of the most beautiful workmanship on pewter products that include the likes of candle stands, tableware and even accessories. Pewter is a popular material as it does not lose its shiny luster over a long period of time. Furthermore, its somewhat matte and silvery texture gives it a glamorous and extravagant look.
In East Malaysia, you will find a lot of crafts particularly from the indigenous tribes of Sabah and Sarawak. Known for their traditional clay beads used to make fashion jewelry, you will be able to find that there are thousands of different crafts which are made from wood, tree parts and others which are then made into household products, tableware, clothing and many others.