Mok Su Gayah weaves songket with sense of touch

by Theleaders-Online | February 15, 2023 7:05 am

KUALA TERENGGANU: Being blind has not stopped single mother of four, Gayah Awang from continuing her ability in songket weaving, a skill she had developed since childhood and is now her main source of income.

Though it has not been easy to memorise the layout of the threads and maintain the songket pattern, Gayah, 54, is determined to continue the tedious process with her sense of touch.

Affectionately known as Mok Su, Gayah who was widowed at about 34, said she started losing her vision gradually when she was a teenager due to a neurological disorder which runs in her family.

“Five of my seven siblings have vision problems and I am totally blind now… When I am sitting in a bright place, I can only see shadows but cannot make out what they are.

“When weaving, I will be groping as I can’t see anything but I have my daughter to help me arrange the threads and prepare the weaving equipment. Then I will start weaving by counting the thread strips and rely on my sense of touch to make sure the woven fabric is neat and beautiful,“ she told Bernama when met at her house at Kampung Pasir Panjang here.

According to Mok Su, each roll of yarn is marked with a rubber band to enable her to differentiate each yarn colour that would be used for each piece of fabric.

Usually, Mok Su would weave ‘songket bunga dalam’ which she says was much easier due to her disability because in this way, not many colours, patterns and flowers are used.

“I don’t take orders directly from customers too because with my condition, it will take me a week to complete one piece of songket, while others can have them ready in two days.

“Besides, I don’t weave a lot and will take my time to do just enough to earn some money to cover our daily essentials,” said Mok Su who started weaving since her primary school days.

She said for the more intricate ‘songket bunga penuh’ she leaves it to daughter Nurul Hajar Ismail, 26, adding that they are still using their ancestral traditional weaver machine which is made of wood.

“Weaving was all I could do to raise my children after my husband died of asthma,“ said Mok Su who completed her Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and was offered a place at Teachers College, which she declined due to her vision loss at 19.

According to Mok Su working as a traditional songket weaver is not easy, but her love in the art which has been her family tradition has motivated her to persevere in her work though she could not earn much from it.

“I do not want this unique skill of songket weaving to go to waste so I am passing it down to my daughters.

“Hajar is already good at it and she is assisting me full time,” said Mok Su whose work has received the support of Malaysian Handicrafts Development Corporation Terengganu branch. – Bernama

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