Asian Arts Museum Textile event.
On 16 of May, a small group of 19 gathered at the Chancellery Hall at the University of Malaya to examine their textile collection. If you have not been to the University, it is a treat to see greenery and a college campus in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. Their Chancellery building is beautiful as well and has an art gallery “hidden” on the 5th floor. Normal hours are Monday – Friday 9 am to 5 pm excluding public holidays.
We had the pleasure of Mr. Abd Aziz Rashid presenting his knowledge of the entire collection and background to us. He reported there are 415 pieces in this collection and since 2011 they have employed a special curator devoted only to textiles. The concentration is not in collecting batik (which they only have 6 pieces) but in woven textiles like the “songket”. The songket is a fabric that belongs to the brocade family of textiles of the Malay world. It is hand-woven in silk or cotton, and intricately patterned with gold or silver threads. Mr. Aziz informed us that the best gold threads come from Lyon, France!
As the textile curator for the museum was unexpectedly unable to attend, MCG member Michelle Pease was able to educate us with her immense knowledge of textiles and go into detail about each of the items as well. I don’t think any of us left with a question unanswered!
We were able to put on gloves and examine over 20 pieces of textiles which were held up by a team of student volunteers. One of the textiles which featured an Islamic verse is dated at 80 – 120 years old from Kelantan and is valued at over $100,000 USD!
One of my favorite pieces was a pink/reddish piece with white designs from Borneo. This one is earthier as you cannot produce as fine a pattern with cotton fibers and it has a link to common people using it. Whilst this one wasn’t worn it still shows supreme craftsmanship.
The Museum’s textile collection started developing in 1975, in 1978 they received a RM500,000 donation and bought many more pieces for the museum as a whole. Today the museum has 7000 total pieces and whilst small compared to Museum Negara’s 60,000 pieces it really is a gem of what they showcase. If you are looking for a small but worthwhile art collection to visit in Kuala Lumpur I would highly suggest stopping by.