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Arts & Culture, Entrepreneurship

Haji Zainal
April 7, 2017
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Hello Haji! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself please?

I am a designer basically. My background is in visual communication and graphics, that was long time before 1960.

Okay, so how did you get into designing and making Batik fabric?

Batik, actually I didn’t learn from school you know but this was coming from my own talent actually when I was studying in the UK … I studied art and typography also in Kuala Lumpur at MARA. Well, back to batik, when I started that was in the year 2000,… basically I didn’t have any idea about how the process of Batik goes from the materials to the aspect of processing. You do this by hand, and start learning the process of dying using chemicals and later, you use the natural dye from leaves, of Bakau trees, seeds and so many things. During that time, you chose cotton and gradually you go on experimenting with many materials like silk or a polyester mix. There’s many choices now with availability of the fabrics. You have to know more about your techniques also; you can do silk-screen printing or by hand and experiment. This is how you can develop your ideas for your designs.

So for yourself, where does the inspiration come from?

I’m always striving more on the local design aspects and culture, more to Bruneian identity. I’m looking for identity, for a Bruneian essence. I take for example tenun which is clear to everybody because everyday you can see people wearing sinjang, so you can see the motif everywhere. So automatically, you are inspired to innovate on the motif.

And inspired to personalize? When someone purchases a particular kind of kain or a cloth, that’s very much a personal decision right.
Yes you are right, and that must be different from other sarong that’s imported from other countries. For Bruneians, they think that ‘This is our motif and I like to wear it’, so there’s this sense of belonging and they are proud to wear this outside of Brunei.

So in terms of the actual designs, the colors and creating it, are there any existing Batik designers or Batik artists who motivate you?
This is through observation… When I go out I’m always, looking at the local environment – you always think, you always observe. Bruneian designs are normally non-figurative, partly also, you have to be more Bruneian and more MIB.

 

When you say they have to become more MIB, what do you mean?

 

Very Islamic, because this is one of the criteria that has to be accepted by the Bruneian customer, when you’re designing something. This is my experience, but the moment you move away far from that concept what you create is not really appreciated by people so the designer needs to really understand the concept of Bruneian culture. This is also present in food for example the Kuih or whatever local food, it has the shape that you can recreate as part of your design. What I’m doing here is only a small portion [of inspiration] that I get from tenun. At the moment, I’m focused more on the motif [from this]. I’m also trying on the Bunga Simpur and other [plants] like Pakis and Kuduk-Kuduk. Bruneians also tend to like more pastel colors especially young people.

So can you tell me about the collaboration project that you’re doing for the ASEAN meeting. What exactly is it? How was it for you to work with just ASEAN designers but people who are in your field and in your industry.

Basically, I’ve recently come back from a workshop with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and we collaborated with members of the ASEAN countries to set a concept for ASEAN attire. So in creating the motif, we’ve come out with a lot of ideas everywhere but to choose one is quite a lot of work.

 

How do you feel as an artist and business that is contributing to the goals of Wawasan 2035?

It is very important [to me]. You need some knowledge of the nature of business. Some people are artists, but do not know how to do business. I think that is, very important, especially when you try to plan something for your business, you must know your product line. You must know about the production [of it]. Then only you are able to do your business. That is very important for me, and for others also if they like to try [to enter the batik industry].

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