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Heritage textile award honours artists, designers and craftsfolk

A visitor looks at a work by Juliana Anak Embrose (which won a Special Mention Award - beadwork) at the Hasanah Gold Threads Awards 2023 exhibition at Pavilion Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

Yayasan Hasanah, which is actively preserving Malaysian heritage textile traditions, is now accepting submissions for the 2024 Hasanah Gold Threads Awards (HGTA) until Aug 20.

Established last year, these awards aim to honour artisans who demonstrate exceptional standards of excellence and innovation in textile craftsmanship, stretching across various forms such as fabrics, baskets, and beadwork, thus advancing the boundaries of heritage textiles.

Last year, the awards received a total of 168 submissions from across Malaysia. The judging panel was captivated by the work of 18 textile artisans proficient in techniques like batik, telepuk, songket, and others.

“As HGTA enters its second year, we’re paying close attention to what makes each entry stand out – largely looking at key aspects of excellence, authenticity, marketability and innovation.

“We want to shine a spotlight on the incredible dedication and creativity of our textile producers, and we hope this criteria will inspire some really exciting entries,” said Jacqueline Fong, founder of social enterprise Tanoti, a co-producer of the awards, at the recent launch of the HGTA 2024 awards cycle in Kuala Lumpur.

‘We look forward to receiving more submissions this year to illuminate more masters of the craft and potentially attract more global attention towards Malaysia’s textile heritage,’ says Datuk Shahira. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

To attract top textile talents across Malaysia, HGTA 2024 is implementing activations and outreach programmes at multiple venues nationwide. This includes a range of demonstrations, workshops, and talks at Pavilion Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur and at The Datai in Langkawi, Kedah.

There will also be an exhibition featuring the winners of HGTA 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, and HGTA information sessions in Penang.

Support for artisans

Local artisans and communities involved in heritage textiles production often face a multitude of challenges, such as limited access to resources and markets, competition from mass-produced textiles, environmental pressures and the erosion of traditional knowledge and skills.

“Beyond honouring today’s heritage textile artisans, the HGTA aims to ignite action and momentum in the textile ecosystem, providing a platform for artisans to shine while driving recognition and marketability of their work,” said Datuk Shahira Ahmed Bazari, trustee and managing director of Yayasan Hasanah.

“Since its debut in 2023, the awards have fostered real connections among textile artisans and industry players, creating income opportunities for artisans, thus generating economic potential for the creative sector.”

Datuk Shahira emphasises that recognition from the awards has acted as a catalyst in enhancing the reputation and expertise of local artisans, fostering collaborations across different industries.

“Some of last year’s winners have been able to secure prestigious residencies with tourism partners to showcase their work to local and foreign audiences. Additionally, Yayasan Hasanah further empowers selected winners through an intensive textile fellowship programme, offering immersive international experiences and mentorship with industry experts to enhance their capabilities in product innovation and development.

Shah Nor Ramin Mohammad, recipient of the HGTA 2023 Best Innovative Award (Ikat), showcases his winning creation, a unique kain songket limar, at the HGTA exhibition. Photo: The Star/Azhar Mahfof

“So we look forward to receiving more submissions this year to illuminate more masters of the craft and potentially attract more global attention towards Malaysia’s textile heritage,” she added.

Eligibility and criteria

The awards welcome Malaysian citizens aged 18 and above, as well as registered Malaysian organisations. Submissions are evaluated based on rigorous criteria, assessing technique, innovation in design and production, representation of Malaysia’s cultural identity and aesthetic values, market potential, functionality, and sustainability.

The six categories: Supplementary Weft, Ikat, Drawing and Stamping, Embroidery and Embellishment, Plaiting, and Beadwork.

Each category will have two winners – Best Traditional Award and Best Innovative Award – with a cash prize of RM25,000 each, plus a Special Mention Award with a cash prize of RM10,000 each for submissions with commendable effort.

The Best Traditional Award is reserved for pieces made in their traditional form for traditional use produced using traditional production techniques, while the Best Innovative Award honours hand-produced traditional textiles that demonstrate innovation in design, use and/or production.

HGTA 2024 is presented by Yayasan Hasanah and jointly produced by Tanoti and Asean Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA), with venue sponsorship by Pavilion Bukit Jalil.

The HGTA 2023 exhibition is showing at the Pink Zone (3rd floor) of Pavilion Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur till Aug 31, featuring last year’s winning works and short video clips of interviews with the textile artisans. Free admission.

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