The British Council today formalised a working partnership with the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) through Institut Kraf Negara (IKN), marking the continued commitment of all parties to Malaysian local craft and the preservation of its tradition and heritage. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was witnessed by YB Datuk Mohamaddin bin Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.
Through the British Council's Crafting Futures programme, the partnership aims to understand youth engagement and crafts, provide solutions to attract youth to the vocation, address the issues around product and design innovation, and connect IKN and its students to higher education and employability pathways. This pilot project will help IKN become a creative hub for vocational students and a catalyst of creativity for the craft sector.
The British Council has been working with IKN since 2018 in an effort to drive design innovation and youth engagement in the craft sector. In close partnership with the Institute of Design Innovation at Glasgow School of Art, Crafting Futures is designed to focus on supporting the new generation of artisans from IKN through capacity building and design innovation workshops, showcasing opportunities, and cross disciplinary exchanges with the UK as well as locally and within the Southeast Asian region.
Sarah Deverall, Director Malaysia, said: 'IKN and Kraftangan Malaysia are key players in nourishing local craft and artisans in Malaysia, and the British Council is proud to bring our partnership to another level. The Malaysian craft sector is worth investing in as an education option for our younger generations because of the potential of craft, its versatility and applicability to other sectors, and the role it plays in maintaining Malaysia's relationship to its heritage'.
The Crafting Futures programme has so far been a success in terms of student engagement, collaborative opportunities, and engagement between higher level stakeholders within IKN, Kraftangan Malaysia, and craft industry professionals.
In February 2019, two IKN teachers attended the Design innovation Winter School in Scotland as part of a knowledge exchange field trip. The British Council also organised a Design Innovation Pop Up Studio at IKN that brought together our partners from Glasgow School of Art and local designers from different fields to expose the students to dynamic, multi-disciplinary and innovative approaches to design. Throughout the week, students participated in a collaborative installation based on a bamboo pavilion designed by Malaysian architect Eleena Jamil.
In September 2019, at The Cooler Lumpur Festival, the British Council featured an art and crafts showcase in partnership with IKN, highlighting how 'Craft is Cool'. Guests were presented with a wealth of local craft heritage items made by IKN students, from intricate weaving to bespoke furniture pieces.
Malaysia is home to diverse crafts with their own techniques and identity. However, the craft sector is facing numerous challenges that threaten its future. Malaysian artisans feel under-supported and under-valued, and additionally, they need to adapt to product innovation or international demand and access. The sector struggles to attract the next generation of artisans. Crafting Futures aims to address this pressing need for product design innovation and youth engagement.
The British Council in Malaysia is also currently working with IKN on an initiative in the area of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). This programme, known as "Improving Work Opportunities for Young People in the Commonwealth" or "I-Work", is aimed at improving the employment prospects of young people, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, by piloting and introducing new approaches to employer led skills development.
The Partnerships Strand of I-Work has enabled IKN to work with TVET institutions from Ghana, India, South Africa and the UK to co-create plans within a common framework and develop employer-led education. Presently, IKN is implementing a capacity building project with its students to improve interpersonal skills as well as critical and innovative thinking.