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Songket Symbolism

Behind the beautiful creation of Songket is a rich heritage that spans many centuries in the Malay peninsula. Perhaps, the most glorious era of songket is during the supremacy of the Malacca Malay Sultanate Empire in the 15th and 16th century.

During this period, trade in textiles were active, especially when Malacca had established itself as the richest trading seaport in the region with profusion of wholesale merchandise that can be found around the world.Fine silks, brocades, cotton textiles, European damasks, Indian kain pelekat (a cotton sarong), Chinese satins were found in abundance and constantly shipped to Malacca to fill the demands from both the locals and the foreign traders.

Fashion, at that time, existed in the form of intricate motifs and patterns, handwoven onto the most expensive materials, and worn only by the royal families, high-ranking officials of the King's court and distinguished recipients of awards and titles.

Appreciation of beauty was the assimilation of nature into design. Adages, metaphors, proverbs and philosophy were reflected on the motifs with much wisdom. Spaces, gaps between motifs and even number of motif's repetition was of significance as it conveys the unity of the community.

Through the passage of time, new generations of weavers created many unique masterpieces, surpassing the high standards and quality set by previous weavers - inventing a new range of motifs that dictated their period and sumptously appealing to the royal families.

From their admiration on the elements of God's creation to food and objects of the court, these innovative weavers skillfully produced yards of fine songket for their noble patrons whenever a religious celebration, festive occasion, wedding, social event or state function calls for the elaborate attire.

However, the advent of influences from foreign countries and the British colonisation greatly confined this magnificent art to limited uses, come the imported fabrics and scarcity of raw materials during the Second World War, and it further declined to the verge of extinction.

Today, thanks to enthusiastic private collectors, various bodies and organisations, songket is experiencing a revival as both ornamental and functional art. From its revered status as the symbol of royalty in the past, contemporary society has elevated its status to representing the dignity of the Malay community, an anchor for the sense of belonging, an icon of unity, and the cultural identity of every children of Malaysia.

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