Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 16.COM 8.B.22

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Malaysia has nominated Songket (no. 01505) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Songket is a traditional Malaysian handwoven fabric created by women in the Malay Peninsula and Sarawak. The term songket refers to the decorative weaving technique used to make the fabric, which entails inserting gold or silver thread in between the base threads. As a result, the extra threads seem to float over a colourful woven background to create an ornamental effect. Songket is woven using a kek, a traditional, two-pedal floor loom. The final product is a delicate fabric resulting from months of skilled handloom weaving by expert artisans. The weaving technique, which dates back to the sixteenth century, is passed on from generation to generation, and the songket style can be identified by the design patterns that use geometric shapes and organic elements, such as flowers, birds and insects. The songket material was traditionally worn only by royalty and their families. However, today it is used by Malay people all over the country in traditional ceremonial clothing, for royal installations, weddings, births, festive occasions and formal state functions. Although the weaving of songket has always been firmly in the hands of women, men also partake in the practice by making the weaving equipment.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1: The element is considered as a means of expressing cultural values and Malay identity. The bearers are Malay communities who live near the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, especially in the states of Terengganu and Kelantan. Women are the primary weavers, while the men usually make the weaving equipment. Knowledge of the element is passed down within families and villages. Additionally, some institutes offer training programmes. It is worth noting that the knowledge and skills associated with the element are also passed down to prisoners who are trained in the craft. The element contributes to sustainable development in that it is widely available and used in various ways.

R.2: Inscription of the element would ensure visibility by motivating communities to expand the practice and encourage the nomination of other intangible cultural heritage elements throughout the country. Internationally, inscription would draw the attention of researchers to further study and understand the element as well as similar elements. Dialogue will be encouraged through symposiums, exhibitions, seminars, research and publications. Inscription would also encourage creativity through the creation of new motifs in addition to the existing variations.

R.3:  Past and current safeguarding efforts have relied on the family units themselves, with other measures involving courses for youth by the National Crafts Institute. Initiatives have also included inventorying, a revival project involving two production centres and various publications. A safeguarding plan is proposed for the period of 2020-2025 and includes general documentation and research, research for value-adding, preservation and transmission through higher learning institutions, promotion through exhibits, symposiums and awards and the establishment of a coordination committee. The Department of National Heritage will apply for funding in order to support the proposed measures. Proposals were developed during a two-day workshop involving non-governmental organizations, associations and experts who acted on behalf of the communities.

R.4:  The file outlines a process which demonstrates wide participation of the communities concerned and their representatives. The nomination process was supported by two institutions with interest in the element, namely: The Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation and the National Craft Institute. Eighteen communities gave consent. The process as described ran from 2018 to 2019. Free, prior and informed consent is established via letters provided by communities who were informed during a meeting in March 2019.

  1. Further considers that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session, the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is satisfied:

R.5:  Since 2016, the element has been listed in the Department of National Heritage Inventory List, a data bank on heritage which contains various types of information and is administered by the Department of National Heritage in the Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture Malaysia. The inventory is updated from time to time by participatory approaches to collect information based on the ongoing modality of research, interviews and meetings, with active involvement of the communities, groups and weavers (mostly females), weaving tool makers (mostly males) and consumers of Songket, as well as other agencies concerned.

  1. Decides to inscribe Songket on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to pay attention to the potential risk of over-commercialization of the element;
  3. Reminds the State Party that community participation is central to the development and implementation of safeguarding measures as well as in the nomination process as a whole.