Nov. 2021 - An Introduction to Malay Textiles

No matter how many bolts of batiks I’ve seen, I gain immense pleasure from browsing a bustling Malaysian market stall or a well stocked fabric store here in KL. Traditional batiks or contemporary vibrant designs, all of them have the same effect on me, I can’t resist them! 


Equally, fabric printing techniques, woven Malay textiles and historically how over the years these have been worn fascinate me too. Consequently, when the MCG emailed a Zoom invite to meet John Ang, a Malay Textile collector I signed up immediately.


John Ang titled his MCG talk  'An Introduction To Malay Textiles' and scheduled it for November 10th 2021. 


Before the talk itself, the invite revealed that John had amassed a vast and impressive collection of almost 4,000 Malay textiles over the last six years. The invite stated that John was born in America to Singaporean parents, and that he had gained a BA and an MA in Asian Art History too. Just these facts alone convinced me that I should zoom into his talk. 


On the morning of the talk, as each of us clicked into John’s Zoom he warmly greeted us and enquired about our nationalities. 


At the start of his talk, John described that whilst researching Asian Textiles at their source, he discovered very little was documented about the specifics of Malay Textiles in its widest sense. He cited a book by Azah Aziz, titled ‘Rupa dan Gaya: Busana Melayu, which featured a limited number of Malay textiles, but it was certainly not a comprehensive study. Realising this, John recognised a pioneering opportunity to write his own book on Malay textiles. Soon John  began making exploratory trips to various parts of the Malay kingdom researching, documenting and collecting textiles from each region. From his extensive travels he concluded that there are in fact 13 different categories of Malay textiles worth noting. These are listed below:


13 Categories of Malay Textiles


1. Songket - Supplementary Weft Decoration

2. Limar - Weft Ikat

3. LimarBersongket - Weft Ikat with Supplementary Weft Decoration

4. Telepuk/Prada - Gold Application

5. Sulaman/Tekatan - Embroidery

6. Pelangi/Jumbutan/Tritik/Sasiragan - Tie-Dye

7. Ikat Loseng - Warp Ikat

8. Tenunan - Weaving, Stripes and Checks

9. Lelangit -Tapestry

10. Cetakan - Prints

11. Batik - Wax Resist Patterning

12. Renda - Lace

13. Tikka - Weaving with Rattan or Pandanus Leaves


Brimming with enthusiasm, John introduced each type of textile and described the use of the cloth and explained many relevant Malay cultural facts. I learnt so much from him. Effectively his talk with us was an introduction and a means of sharing something else he is planning. For John is currently preparing an extensive exhibition in KL, consisting of 600 textiles, displayed on 45 walls across ten rooms. What a mammoth task he has set himself and something I am eagerly waiting to see. Look out for his exhibition which will be titled: 'Splendours of Malay World Textiles.'


Cheryl Brophy Chan