Bangunan Pertama Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia di Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur
The Peninsular of (West) Malaysia is located at the southern tip of the Asian Continent. It is flanked by the Straits of Malacca and the South-China Sea. Geographically, the Straits of Malacca is one of the dynamic commercial routes in the world since ancient time. Merchants came far and wide from India, the Middle-east, the Far East China and the surrounding Nusantara region, bringing along with them cultural and religious values. They exchanged and traded their spices, textiles and wares at the bustling market of the Sultanate of Malacca (1400-1511) of the Malay Archipelago. The meetings of the people with great cultures and civilisations indirectly attested the great influence on present day unique, colourful and variety Malaysian craft.
The Malay craft was noticeably growing in the 19th century especially in Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perak. It was receiving great attention from the royal households who proudly adorned magnificent hand-woven clothing, displayed splendored wares and up-lifted the palace’s interiors with embellished accessories. Outstanding craftsmen and their families were living at the vicinity of the palaceand busilyproduced crafts and wares for the royalties. In 1930, a group of Malay and British administrators formed the Kelantan Malay Art and Handicraft Association (Persatuan Kesenian dan Pertukangan Melayu Kelantan). For the first time, local crafts were marketed in several towns and as far as Singapura (Singapore).This was the pivoting point in the growth and marketing direction of local crafts.
Exhibitions organised by the Malaya Agriculture and Horticulture Association (MAHA) since the early 1960s further encouraged and widen the marketing of the craft products. The much sought after pavilion-concept MAHA at that time had featured and promoted craft demonstration as the main activity in its programme. Simultaneously at state level, there were interest in developing craft, beginning with Kedah which set up a handicraft school to train youths in gold and silver filigree, batik stamping, pottery making and textile weaving.The Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Starhad initiated the textile weaving school in 1935. It was later changed to The Girls’ Training School in 1959.
The setting of the Rural and Industry Development Authority (RIDA) or Lembaga Kemajuan Kampung dan Perusahaan gave a new dimension to the craft industry to expand. The craftsmen were given assistance in financing, skill training, raw materials and market channels.In 1966, The Majlis Amanah Rakyat(MARA), a trust council with the task to look after the affairs of the Bumiputera was set up, taking over the role of RIDA. On the 1st January 1967, the MARA Handicraft Development Centre (Pusat Kemajuan Kraftangan MARA) was established to give continued assistance and focused its roles in technical research, product development and product design. However, marketing was not its role then.Just as the craft industry was looking positive towards growth in the 1970s, the world market was introduced and flooded with plastics of various forms
Malaysian households were no exception from this phenomenon.Craft activists immediately saw the need to protect Malaysian craft and activated a crusade towards the preservation and conservation of the country’s heritage. A new era in craft development gave optimism to the craft producers and entrepreneurs and on the 14th May 1973, the Malaysian Handicraft Board (Lembaga Kraftangan Malaysia) was formed.In the quest to further strengthen the growth and development of the craft industry, the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Perbadanan Kemajuan Kraftangan Malaysia) or Kraftangan Malaysia was set up on the 1st October 1979, under the Act 222. It has been more than three decades since and the craft industry in Malaysia has been ever challenging and growing, benefiting both the craftsmen and the users.