Deep understanding of Malaysian textiles

WITH different categories of the most comprehensive range of Malay World Heritage Textiles, the Splendors of Malay World Textiles Exhibition is currently taking place at Menara KEN, TTDI until the end of October.

Owned and curated by Chinese-American art historian and collector John Ang, the exhibition is the result of Ang’s long quest to study and refine his understanding of textiles in the Malay Archipelago, which is why he also moved to Malaysia.

“I started collecting Malaysian textiles in 2014 and was immediately taken by their beauty and intricacy. This sparked my passion and I became an avid collector, traveling all over Asia to acquire pieces to add to my growing collection,” he said.

Ang previously spent 28 years running Samyama Gallery in Taiwan where he established himself as an authority on Asian art, publishing a book on Chinese furniture, as well as books on yoga and Asian cuisine.

The exhibition was opened by Lee Talbot, Curator of the Textile Museum Collection at the George Washington University Museum, and Nini Marini Ramlan, President of Citra.

“This project marks the beginning of a new era in the overall understanding and appreciation of textiles from the Malay world,” noted Talbot.

The exhibition proved Talbot’s remarks, as Ang’s complete set which consists of over 700 individual pieces from 12 categories was exhibited, as the ditty (brocade), to file (ikat frame), telepuk (gold leaf applique), tekatan (embroidery), pelagic (tie dye), rhombus ikat (ikat string), they have (plain weave of stripes and checks), linangkit (tapestry), mold (prints), batik (wax resin), Income (lace) and every man (non-spun woven vegetable fiber).

“The Malay world in this exhibit stretches further than what we know to be Malaysia. You can marvel at how big our world is and how we have always been citizens of the world,” said the Marini artist.

The latter’s remarks could clearly be seen on the collected textiles, and textiles from other countries that relate to the textiles of the Malay world are on display for visitors.

Additionally, the exhibit also shows how the unique textiles of the Malay world have been shaped and influenced by other cultures, and in turn, have done the opposite, such as how rhombus ikat by the Malays of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Pontianak, Sambas and Palembang were to some extent influenced by Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian sources.

“Everything is connected, because there are similar patterns. For example, in the Philippines, I see a zig-zag pattern and these are the same patterns that the Malays call “siku keluang”, which means “elbow of bat- mouse,'” Ang said of the connection and similarities of textiles across the archipelago.

The Splendours of Textiles of the Malay World exhibition will not only showcase the main techniques of Malay textiles, but will also display a wide range of variations within each technique.

Alongside the exhibition, workshops, guided tours and dinner shows will be organized by Ang during the three months of the exhibition.

The exhibition will remain open until October 30.

For exhibition tickets priced at RM35 and for tour bookings, visit