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Asean craft takes center stage at Manila FAME

Al Valenciano of the Philippines

Southeast Asia can look forward to more contemporary global crafts and designs as works of master craftsmen from the region took center stage in the recent Manila FAME—the country’s premier international event for lifestyle exports, at the World Trade Center.

Dubbed the ASEAN Master Craft Design Festival, the exhibit highlighted the first collection of crafts developed through the project “Improving the Status of ASEAN Mastercraft Designers,” which is supported by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

With the theme “ASEAN Crafts to the World,” the festival featured contemporary crafts in an ASEAN Pavilion featuring the works of master craftsmen Roselyn Long Lah and Edric Ong of Malaysia, Lim Masulin of Indonesia, Truong Phi Duc of Vietnam, Rush Pleansuk of Thailand, and Al Valenciano of the Philippines.

The pavilion – inspired by a cocoon and executed in metal and cloth – was curated by celebrated Indonesian architect Cosmas Gozali. The Vienna-trained designer presents modern and futuristic design works with innovative spatial exploration.

On display were Indonesian batik hand weaving applications on furniture, clothing, housewares and installations, and Malaysian beadwork, Sarawakan native headgear and cloth as fashion accessories and lighting fixtures.

The Philippines was represented by inabel handwoven products from the Ilocos Region, Vietnam displayed its notable lacquer ware sets, while Thailand by its craft designs applied on furniture, lighting, accessories and house ware toys.

A partnership with the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the project was initiated by the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA), the region’s largest group of craftsmen.

“The program aims to strengthen and enhance the use of design in reinforcing cultural identity in the development and marketing of ASEAN products by sustaining the region’s master craftsmen,” said Mina Gabor, chairman of the Philippine Small and Medium Business Development Foundation, Inc. (Philsmed) which is managing the project.

The project was endorsed by the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and funded by the ASEAN–Republic of Korea Future Oriented Cooperation Program.

Gabor pointed out that the project stemmed from the decline in the export sales of Southeast Asian crafts as observed by the ASEAN countries during the AHPADA meeting in 2009.

“The solution is, not only to groom and propagate master craft designers, but also to make them develop and establish their individual cultural identity, attain brand distinction despite the commonality of raw materials, diversity, and ultimately enable them to name their price,” she added.