Malaysian songket listed in UNESCO’s list of ‘intangible cultural heritage’

Dancers wearing songket, at left, and a close-up of the traditional hand-woven fabric, at right. Photos:  Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture
Dancers wearing songket, at left, and a close-up of the traditional hand-woven fabric, at right. Photos: Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture

The Malaysian songket has been listed in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This was announced yesterday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France during its 16th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The songket was listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and is the highest recognition in the world for intangible cultural heritage.

“This recognition by UNESCO raises awareness about preserving the heritage of various cultures in Malaysia,” a statement by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture said. “It will also motivate the younger generation to take an interest in songket-weaving.”

Songket is a hand-woven silk or cotton fabric intricately patterned with gold or silver threads and can be found in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore. Once reserved for royalty during the 16th century, the metallic threads of the songket stand out against the background cloth to create a shimmering effect. 

Malaysia now has a total of six intangible cultural heritages under UNESCO’s Representative List. Besides songket, others on the list are mak yong (Malay traditional dance), dondang sayang (Malay love ballad), silat (Malay martial arts), pantun (Malay poetry, listed with Indonesia), and the wangkang ceremony (Chinese barge festival to ward off evil spirits, listed with China).

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