The Malay songket is a traditional handwoven fabric using the supplementary weft technique of metallic threads of gold and silver. It has been a source of inspiration for ideas and development of new designs and patterns to invoke new usage of fabric as an artform.
The visual impact of the songket on viewer is perhaps best expressed in the words of Grace Selvanayagam, the author of Songket, Malaysia’s Woven Treasure where she describes it as ” a rich, luxurious, ceremonial fabric, handwoven in silk or cotton, and intricately patterned with gold (and sometime silver) thread which stands out in subtle relief on the background cloth. The interplay of light and gentle shadow on the fabric create a gorgeous shimmery effect, making it undoubtedly the “queen” of handwoven fabrics”.
This ornamental fabric is worn at ceremonial and social functions, and religious celebrations. This “cloth of gold” when used as a sarong is neatly wrapped around the waist, ensuring that the patterns on the cloth should be positioned on the body as intended. In a sarong, the central panel of the cloth is worn at the back and admired for its intricate patterns and symbols. Today, the songket sarong has been adapted for non-traditional use as decorative panels and wall hangings.