Southeast Asia is the home of a wide range of textiles, the products of indigenous development as well as imported traditions firmly rooted in the region. Some of the techniques, materials and designs utilised reach back hundreds of years into the unrecorded and mythic past. It is hardly surprising, that certain textiles and some of the designs still in use are considered sacred. The principal manifestations of the craft of textiles manufacture, be their function utilitarian or ceremonial, may be seen in the art of weaving, batik printing and in embroidery work manifested in diverse, often sophisticated styles. As far as clothing goes, batik and embroidered materials dominate. Articles derived from embroidered or beaded textiles also find an important place in ceremonial usage.
In the Malay peninsula, the art of weaving reaches a high degree of excellence along the cast coast in the manufacture of silk and sungkitt. However, while sungkit manufacture is a localised art, that of batik and embroidery using gold thread (tekat) has found favour elsewhere in the peninsula. Batik has become Malaysia’s unofficial national textile. Innovative creations using the art of batik are constantly emerging and newer uses for the material seem to be increasingly discovered.