Did You Know: Malaysian Prisons & Inmates Keep The Tradition Of Royal Pahang Weaving Alive

Tunku Azizah said the programme has given hope and a second chance to not only the weaving industry, but also the incarcerated individuals.

Cover image via Bernama/New Straits Times

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The inmates and wardens of the Bentong and Penor prisons in Pahang have been instrumental in keeping the thousand-year-old art form of Royal Pahang Weaving alive

Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah has recently thanked the Malaysian Prisons Department for reviving the traditional textile art, also known in Malay as Tenun Pahang Diraja, which is unique to the east coast state.

Tunku Azizah expressed gratitude for the Malaysian Prisons Department's efforts at the charity dinner on Wednesday night, 27 December.

Image via Bernama/New Straits Times

Tunku Azizah said there were only 15 Royal Tenun weavers in Pahang in 2005 and worried that the craft would turn obsolete

"In my opinion, it was critical. I said if nothing was done, the Royal Pahang Weave would just fade away.

"The Malaysian Prisons Department played a significant role in helping me revive the Royal Pahang Weave," she said during a charity dinner organised by the Malaysian Prisons Department on Wednesday night, 27 December.

According to the New Straits Times, Her Majesty fell in love with the fabric while doing a photoshoot to launch her cookbook in 2005, and has since made it her personal mission to ensure the survival of the craft.

Tunku Azizah showcasing the Royal Pahang Weave at the London Craft Week in 2022.

Image via Bernama/New Straits Times

Over the next two decades, she rejuvenated the Malaysian Prisons Department's weaving programme, started a business entity that employs skilled weavers, and set up a foundation to promote the art.

Now, there are more than 200 skilled Royal Tenun weavers in the state.

As a matter of policy, every prison in Malaysia offers a rehabilitation programme to teach its inmates a skill or craft, as well as give them an opportunity to earn a small stipend. For some, it is construction or woodwork; for the prisons in Pahang, it is weaving.

There were initially only two weaving looms in the Bentong and Penor prisons, but now, there are 115, with inmates proudly taking up the work to produce clothes fit for royalty.

It is said Tunku Azizah frequently visits the Bentong and Penor prisons.

Image via New Straits Times

An inmate engrossed in working at a loom in Bentong Prison.

Image via New Straits Times

"Other skills, we can learn outside. But the opportunity to learn weaving is rare," an inmate told CNA in an interview in 2019.

"Even though we are convicts, the royal family members wear what we make, and I am proud of that," he added.

Tunku Azizah said the prison weaving programme has given hope and a second chance to not only the weaving industry, but also the incarcerated individuals.

Read more about how the Malaysian Prisons Department helps to change the lives of convicts here:

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