Splendour of Malaysian crafts
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 08 Mar 2013
Hari Kebangsaan Kraf, or National Craft Day, is presently on at Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur. LIN ZHENYUAN goes on another walkabout and meets some old friends.
THE National Craft Day, or Hari Kebangsaan Kraf, started on Feb 27 and it will run till March 11.
Every year, the window of heritage handicraft opens a little wider.
With more to see, hear and learn with each passing year, the National Craft Day has become an annual event that many foreign tourists and Malaysians look forward to.
It also offers an opportunity to Malaysians to re-acquaint themselves with many of the so-called “lost arts”.
Altogether it is not exactly wrong to say that some of the lesser known crafts have been stagnating in the river of time, lately great efforts have been made by certain quarters to revive them for the benefit of the general population.
This year there are five craft exhibitions. They are new craft design products, ceramics, craft heritage, architectural wood carving and the Malaysian art of wood carving.
There is also an exhibition at the lobby of the Seri Anjung building showcasing craft products that have received the Unesco award of excellence last year.
These products are from Southeast Asia and South Asia.
The 2013 National Craft Day has attracted more than 450 participants representing five categories. These are the forest-based products, textiles, earthen-based (hasil tanah), metal craft and an assortment of handicraft.
The hundreds of participants from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak are housed in four huge tents.
This year, Sabah and Kelantan seem to have more representatives than before.
The artisans from Perlis to Kota Kinabalu have been preparing for months to showcase their traditional art works.
Personally, the National Craft Day has always been a time of learning for me. Even though there are some master craftsmen who speak with heavy accents from their own States, they can be understood without much difficulty.
Like most craftsmen who started at an early age, perhaps under the careful guidance of their fathers, uncles or kampung elders, these artisans, men or women, share one common trait – humility.
It is heartening to hear their tales of taking those baby-steps when they were apprentices to reach a level of mastery in their middle age when they finally have the satisfaction of knowing that they have understood the finer points of their craft.
To make the national craft event more interesting, there are also live demonstrations of sculpturing wood, rattan and paper weaving, traditional musical instruments, keris-making, stone-carving and kumbu and bamboo weaving.
The masters of these traditional crafts have come from Sarawak, Sabah, Kedah, Pahang, Perak, Kelantan, Johor, Negri Sembilan and Selangor.
Visitors to the National Craft Day at Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur in Jalan Conlay can avail themselves a guide booklet which has all the relevant information pertaining to the craft demonstrations and the thousands of items on display.
As if the wide range of traditional crafts is not enough to titillate the senses, there are also cooking demonstrations of traditional cuisine like kuih bahalu (sponge cake), putu beras (glutinous rice cookies), pulut pagi (glutinous rice with grated coconut), kuih putu halba (steamed mash tapioca with sweet filling), kuih tepung boko beras (steam rice flour cookies with coconut milk) and cakar ayam sarang burung (sweetened deep fried sweet potato).
The above are only a portion of an extensive list of traditional cuisine. In this particular area, makcik-makcik from at least eight States are showing off their culinary skills.
I have had the pleasure of sampling a number of these traditional cookies over the years and it would be accurate to say that I have yet to finish tasting the whole lot.
There seems to be countless types of snack items and more new ones are appearing every year at the National Craft Day.
Tasting and eating is one of the more pleasurable aspects of showing up at the 2013 Hari Kebangsaan Kraf.
May the unheralded local kitchen chefs continue to surprise me every year.
There is also a long list of cultural performances for the duration of the Craft Day. Among these are angklung, wayang kulit, dikir barat, Indian art dance, Chinese lion dance, Malay Asli music and at least one Semai ethnic performance.
Visitors do not need to fear lack of parking space because two sites have been specially prepared for the crowds who are expected to pour in. These two sites are near the craft complex.
Vans will provide free shuttle service to and from the craft complex. All you need is to get the parking coupon stamped by the event officials on duty. No charge.
Like previous years, there are remarkable collections of costume accessories, souvenirs, keychains, batik paintings, traditional clothes, pendants, earthen pots, wooden frames and gifts and myriad decorative products to thrill your senses.
No need to worry where to find food because numerous tents have been set up with chefs selling many mouth-watering dishes,some of which are not normally seen in restaurants.
This year’s National Craft Day seems to be better and bigger than last year’s. Visiting hours are from 10am to 10pm.
Other activities included in the programme are craft interactives, craft forum, competitions, craft star hunt and group guided tours.
Apparently, the organisers have thought of everything and the list of activities is quite impressive.
A word of advice: besides bringing your good self, you should also bring along extra cash because you probably won’t be leaving home empty-handed.
After four straight years of attending the National Craft Day event, the benefits that I have reaped are a growing number of good friends among the artisans from various States and a deep appreciation of local arts and crafts.
The friendly master craftsmen are usually most willing to impart intimate knowledge of their unique crafts.
Truly, the real masters are never afraid to share their secrets because they know that the more they teach, the more they gain.