MUAR: There are more than just aesthetic beauty in traditional Malay woodcarvings as the art requires a high degree of skill, patience and determination.
Such pieces frequently adorn the home interior of traditional Malay wooden palaces and houses.
In the olden days, Malay aristocrats and noble families would normally hire the best tukang ukir or skilled wood carvers to beautify their homes with woodcarvings to differentiate their dwellings from the ordinary folk.
Now, carvings on blocks of wood are usually hanged as wall decorations, wall dividers and furniture in modern homes and buildings.
The skills attained in woodcarvings is usually passed down from one generation to another. The services of these skilled craftsmen are much sought after by many even until today.
“Many youngsters now are not keen to learn the craft and I’m afraid that one of these days, the art will die,” said Perusahaan Zalikraf proprietor Tuzelan Ahmad.
He set up the company 15 years ago and offers a wide range of services related to woodcarving.
It is probably the only company in Johor providing traditional woodcarving services as most companies in the related field are located in Kelantan and Terengganu – the two states famous for Malay woodcarvings.
Tuzelan said there was no difference in terms of quality and workmanship between woodcarvings done by those from Kelantan, Terengganu and other states.
His clients list include the public and private sector in Malaysia and Singapore.
The company also took part in several trade shows in Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore and would be opening a kiosk at the Handicraft Centre showroom in Johor Baru this year.
“Zalikraf workshop is located at KM18, Kampung Serom 4, Sungai Mati. We employ eight workers and 30 vendors to undertake orders on a contract basis.
Relating his decision to go into woodcarving, Tuzelan said, “I enrolled in the furniture-making and woodcarving courses in the 80s after failing my SPM exams. I’m glad I made that move,” said Tuzelan.
Among the courses he attended include those organised by the Muar Welfare Department Skill Training Centre, Kobena-Sambu Training Centre, Malaysian Handicraft Corp (Pahang) and Traditional Kelantanese Woodcarvers Association workshop.
Tuzelan was also among the three Malaysians chosen to attend a six-month training on woodcarvings in Jepara, Central Java in the 90s under the Asean Youth Exchange Programme.
He said woodcarvings from Indonesia with animal and human figurines were freely used while Malay woodcarvings only depicted plants, flowers and geometrical motifs as well as verses from the Quran, as the use of animal and human elements were strictly prohibited in Islam.
He said the Malay woodcarvings were divided into two categories - ukiran timbul bersirat (relief carvings) and kerawang tebuk tembus (cut-out and detach). The first method is more tedious and time-consuming.
The popular motifs include tendrils of long beans, eggplants, brinjals, cucumber, daun sayap (clover-like leaves) and bunga kerak nasi (Chinese gardenias).
The Cengal is the most preferred wood but it is expensive and highly prized. Other types of wood include nyatoh, kapor, merbau, rengas, semangkok and jelutong.
Those interested to pay a visit at the workshop can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.zalikraf.com.
SOURCE: THE STAR, JULY 15, 2010