Weaving tradition into 21st century
Tenun Pahang fabric gets wider attention and broader use
BATIK and songket are among the textiles Malaysia can boast of, but there is another unique fabric weaving method, while lesser known, that we can take equal pride in -- Tenun Pahang Diraja.
The fine fabric produced in Pahang using this centuries-old silk weaving technique is commonly worn as sarong, sampin, selendang and other traditional clothing.
Tenun Pahang recently gained recognition when Johor princess Tunku Tun Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Ibrahim wore a dress made from the fabric for her wedding.
The fabric had been given to Tunku Tun Aminah by her aunt Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar.
Although Tenun Pahang has been around for centuries, the industry only flourished lately under the patronage of Tunku Azizah to the point it was conferred royal status in 2006.
She said recently this unique cultural heritage would be lost within a few more years if there were no steps taken to preserve it.
As to its origins, Institut Kemahiran Tenun Pahang Diraja Tengku Ampuan Besar Meriam manager Fairuz Hafiezal Rosli said it was believed that a Bugis nobleman named Tok Tuan brought the technique to Pahang in the 17th century.
“The technique is believed to have come from Riau or Sulawesi. There was already silk weaving in Pahang at that time but the nobleman improved it and it eventually became known as Tenun Pahang.
“He expanded the weaving technique and since then, it has been passed down through the generations as a heritage of Pahang,” he said.
Fairuz said a feature of Tenun Pahang was the thin lines called “sepit udang” that distinguished it from other types of woven silk.
Among the basic patterns produced as Tenun Pahang were horizontal lines and squares besides other contemporary designs, he added.
Fairuz said the making of Tenun Pahang was a very complicated process that required plenty of patience.
“The steps involved are melikas, mewarna, menerai, menganing, menyusuk, menggulung, mengarat and menenun. It starts from separating the silk all the way to weaving using the traditional loom known as kek siam.
“It is time-consuming work and those who wish to pick up this craft must have patience as a trait. We usually allow trainees to try it out first to see if they have interest,” he said.
Tourism and Culture Ministry deputy secretary-general (management) Datuk Yean Yoke Heng said Tenun Pahang had undergone an evolution and could be applied to modern fashion design in line with current trends and style.
“Besides the design, Tenun Pahang Diraja products have also gone through a development process in the form of function. It is no longer solely focused on fashion but produced for broader purpose such as souvenirs, corporate gifts and interior decoration,” Yean said at the launch of the Projek Kraf Kampungku Tenun Pahang Diraja here last month.
The project involved 12 entrepreneurs from six locations in Pekan with a total of 66 weavers.
Yean said it was hoped that the project could increase production of the handicraft.
“The good reception by Tenun Pahang entrepreneurs towards Projek Kraf Kampungku shows they are ready to carry Pekan as the main district of Tenun Pahang production. It will directly help it to become the signature product of Pahang,” he said.
Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Azizah (in pink) observing Noraini Mat Lela, 21, working the loom to weave silk using the Tenun Pahang method.