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Malaysia Among 4 Nations To Nominate Kebaya As A UNESCO Cultural Heritage

Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand have agreed to jointly nominate the kebaya because it represents and celebrates the richness of the common heritage and promotes cross-cultural understanding.

Cover image via Pinterest & Times Indonesia

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Malaysia will be nominating the kebaya as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage with Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand in 2023

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture (MOTAC) confirmed that all the countries have agreed to cooperate in the multinational effort, as kebaya is a common legacy in Southeast Asian countries.

"Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand have agreed to jointly nominate the kebaya because it represents and celebrates the richness of the common heritage and promotes cross-cultural understanding," MOTAC said in a statement yesterday, 23 November.

"Hopefully, it continues to be practised by various communities throughout Southeast Asia. Because this is a great opportunity to promote and celebrate the shared heritage that exists in the region."

A collection of baju kebaya at a batik cloth shop.

Image via CNA (YouTube)

Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand have also welcomed other regional nations to hop aboard in the joint nomination

The submission of nomination documents by all countries is scheduled for the end of March 2023.

If the nomination is successful, it will be inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2024.

Several women crossed the road to attend UNESCO while donning kebaya.

Image via VOA Indonesia (YouTube)

The kebaya is an upper garment representing the cultural heritage and identity of Malays, Peranakan Chinese, Chitty, and other communities in Southeast Asian countries

Moreover, kebaya also fulfills the criteria for an aspect of intangible cultural property since it requires traditional weaving skills, including embroidery (of motifs) and sewing techniques.

The traditional garment is also strongly tied to cultural heritage events, such as festivals and weddings.

Under the 2003 Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO places a high value on collaborative and multi-national nominations to use culture as a platform for mutual understanding and dialogue. Its listing process opens the door for international strategic cooperation.

The kebaya has always been a Southeast Asian favourite with its evergreen designs and constant innovation:

If you're looking for a stylish baju kebaya, then take a look at these local businesses to fill up your wardrobe:

If you're ever feeling fancy, you could follow these ladies who had a kebaya-themed photo shoot in Penang: