• UBD and Government Agencies, Entrepreneurs Champion Preservation of Traditional Textiles
UBD and Government Agencies, Entrepreneurs Champion Preservation of Traditional Textiles

With the theme "Upholding Traditions for Sustainable Future: Golden Ties That Bind", the 6th ASEAN Traditional Textiles Symposium provides a platform for traditional textile experts, researchers, students and entrepreneurs to gather, discuss and exchange ideas to preserve and ensure the continuity of traditional textile products in the region. Furthermore, the symposium also encourages the production of new textile techniques that can increase the production of new textiles while improving the traditional textile industry's capability to enter a wider market.

Textiles are a cultural heritage that all countries in ASEAN share, a common fabric with features distinctive to each of the different cultures. Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Lailara Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi Haji Md Yussof, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport in his capacity as co-advisor to the organising committee said that in addition to the design and production, the social and economical benefits that brought about the culture of traditional weaving is one that binds the region together in the spirit of unity in diversity.

Textiles have long been a part of Southeast Asian traditions and cultures, playing a central role in their societies for centuries. They form a tangible history of the respective countries' culture, heritage and crafting traditions. However, these textile traditions face threats from modernity and the rise of modern technology that challenges the ancient textile skills, knowledge and culture. These challenges also include ensuring the sustainable supply of raw materials; how to make textiles relevant in the modern world and find ways to socialise their use in society; the need to commercialise them; and most importantly how to protect and safeguard the traditional designs and their intellectual property rights. "Some of these challenges are complex," Pehin Dato Haji Awang Halbi said. "But I believe that by working together through mutual cooperation in the spirit of the ASEAN 2025 Vision: One Identity, One Community; we can overcome them.”

He also highlighted how Brunei Darussalam's experience can be used as a model in the important issue of protecting and preserving traditional textiles. The usage of traditional hand woven textiles of Brunei Malays are well protected and preserve on many levels. An example is the establishment of the Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre, an initiative that was the brainchild of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien. Established in 1984, the objective of the centre is to showcase the traditional arts and handicrafts of Brunei Darussalam such as brass-making, silver-smithing and traditional weaving, while ensuring a steady supply of craftsmen. "Furthermore, traditional textiles are an integral part of the daily lives of Bruneians not just in formal ceremonies," the minister added. "It continues as a living tradition, appreciated and loved by everyone."

Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Binti Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah officiated the 6th ASEAN Traditional Textiles Symposium at the Rizqun International Hotel.  Her Royal Highness also launched the publication of Golden Woven Fabrics of Brunei Darussalam written by Dr Siti Norkhalbi Wahsalfelah, Director at the Academy of Brunei Studies.

The 6th ASEAN Traditional Textiles Symposium was held for five days from 19th to 23rd November where the first three days were held at the Rizqun International Hotel and the remaining two days were educational visits for symposium participants. Delegates went as far as Kg Lepong Baru and Kg Senukoh in Temburong to observe ethnic handicraft-making and be immersed in a number of cultural activities.

A total of 13 working papers were presented by representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Cambodia, Canada and Vietnam. About 300 participants registered for the symposium, including Tengku Puan Pahang Tungku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Binti Al-Marhum Almutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, the Crown princess of Pahang.

The symposium also featured nine textile exhibitions in line with this year's theme involving 22 entrepreneurs that had products for sale. In addition to promoting the results of their craft, they were also encouraged to exchange views on textile production methods and innovative designs that can be incorporated into traditional textiles. 

This year is Brunei Darussalam's first time hosting the ASEAN Traditional Textiles Symposium, a biannual event that began 12 years ago in 2005. It was first held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in Philippines in February 2009, Malaysia in March 2011, Vietnam in March 2013, and Chiang Mai, Thailand in January 2015. The symposium in Brunei Darussalam was a collaboration between Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD); Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports; Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism; Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and the Traditional Textiles Arts Society of Southeast Asia. It was also supported by the Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre, and the Department of Adat Istiadat Negara. 

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