KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — The Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah has been honoured with the 2019 Craft Icon of the Year award by the World Crafts Council (WCC) for her contributions in keeping the traditional craft heritage alive.
Apart from her majesty, the National Craft Institute (IKN) and Kraf Komuniti Ku (KKK) had been picked as the Craft Institute/Academy of the Year and Craft Village of the Year, respectively, in the list of award winners attached in India’s Craft Village website (https://www.craftvillage.org.in/home.html).
The award would be presented during the 2019 Third International Craft Awards (ICA) in GMR Aerocity, New Delhi on December 7, during the India Craft Week on December 4-8, according to WCC’s website. The awards promote, inspire and encourage people in keeping the craft heritage alive.
The award is a fitting honour for her majesty who had been actively promoting traditional crafts, starting from 2006. Tunku Azizah is synonymous with Tenun Pahang (Pahang Weave) and picked the exclusive fabric which has become the identity of the ‘Tok Gajah’ state for her attire at the Installation Ceremony of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at Istana Negara on July 30.
The selection of Tenun Pahang Diraja at the installation ceremony, according to Tunku Azizah was a sign of her appreciation as the patron of the Tenun Pahang Diraja Foundation and the chairman of the Tenun Pahang Diraja Development Committee.
Her efforts to uphold Tenun Pahang led to the rebranding of the fabric from Tenun Pahang to Tenun Pahang Diraja on May 8, 2006 with its development closely monitored through the Tenun Pahang Diraja Advisory Body under its patron at that time Sultan Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Tenun Pahang was believed to have originated more than 300 years ago and those who knew Tunku Azizah said she was the driving force in the setting up of the Tengku Ampuan Besar Meriam Tenun Diraja Pahang Skills Institute in Pulau Keladi, Pekan, Pahang around 2010 to ensure the art would not be lost.
This was because Tunku Azizah saw that the production of Tenun Pahang Diraja required time and great care, with only 15 weavers in Pekan during her early involvement with Tenun Pahang around 2005.
‘’I champion traditional handmade crafts and do not support weavings and making songket and batik using machines.
‘’We must defend our national handiwork products which are so fine, beautiful and time-consuming, including mats, embroidery, ‘kerikam’, vase, rattan and ‘baju kurung,’’ she tweeted on her Tweeter account on October 28.
The efforts of Tunku Azizah is now starting to bear fruit as she had succeeded in turning out 200 weavers around Pekan before she moved to the next stage by teaching the weaving skill to men, which had rarely happened prior to this.
Tunku Azizah consented to the weavings of the Royal Pahang fabric by male inmates at the Penor and Bentong Prisons, in fact, she often visited them to monitor their work.
Her interest with craft became more prominent at the national level after Tunku became the Raja Permaisuri Agong.
Recently, Tunku Azizah went viral on social media over a video of her promoting the Malaysian crafts to the attendees of the Seventh ASEAN Traditional Textile Symposium in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Tunku Azizah, in her speech, when launching the 2019 National Craft Day recently said, numerous effort could be implemented to ensure a more glorious national handicraft art heritage to clearly reflect the artistic soul.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC) director-general Ibrahim Ismail said the conferment of the award to Tunku Azizah by WCC showed that the national handicraft industry had a high status in the eyes of the world.
The recognition of Tunku Azizah also boosted the spirit and is a motivation for the national craft industry to continue expanding.
‘’We are so proud because the national ‘first lady’ is crowned as a craft icon, which is a prestigious award from abroad. This is a good sign when the national craft industry is championed by the Permaisuri Agong who truly appreciates and loves the craft arts,’’ he told Bernama.
He said two more awards reaped by IKN and KKK were world-class recognitions through the initiative of MHDC in developing the local communities which were closely tied to the unique products, history, culture and identity of a place.
In the meantime, Ibrahim also said the first-ever international recognitions also showed that the direction of MHDC which also involved the B40 group was in line with the aspiration of the government in the context of shared prosperity.
‘’This success also clearly shows that the craft industry in the country is viable,’’ he added.