Frequented by visitors worldwide, Melaka is a quaint state with a rich blend of modern architecture, diverse culture, heritage buildings, ancient landmarks and colonial structures. Is is also the best place to go for avid collectors of beautiful artwork and rare antiques, fashion enthusiasts looking for unique hand-sewn clothing, and those who are shopping for handmade trinkets that make lovely gifts for loved ones back home. Traditional Melaka handicrafts can be classified in a few cultures such as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, Chitty, and Baba Nyonya.
Gasing, or spinning top is a traditional game designed to spin rapidly on the ground, the motion of which causes it to remain precisely balanced on its tip because of its rotational inertia. Gasing is popular among Malays and largely played by the villagers in Melaka.
Rattan & Mengkuang Weaving Products
Rattan or ‘rotan’ in the Malay language is a long climbing plant with thorny leaves and a glossy, water-resistant surface. Mengkuang (screwpine) leaves plait are unique and are high in quality in terms of their design and workmanship. The process of rattan and mengkuang weaving requires determination and patience as it requires high expertise. A unique and creative plaiting design will help the society to maintain the Malay culture’s originality.
Derived from the Arabic word, robbana which give the meaning ‘our lord’, Rebana is a Malay tambourine that is used in Islamic devotional music in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. The sound of Rebana often accompanies Islamic ritual such as the Zikir.
Operating a ceramic shop is yet to be another labor of art when clay craftsmen produce clay souvenirs. Located in the heritage town, Melaka, ensconced a little clay artist’s house producing fine clay pieces such as lamps, tea cups, kettles, flower vases, miniature traditional houses, incense burners and many other types of clay art. The intense labor well described on the carved designs with a variety of unique shapes and motifs including apple resemblance art, pumpkins and even butternut squashes. Besides souvenirs, many offer ‘clay-making pottery’ classes at a reasonable fee.
A clog is a type of footwear made in part or completely from wood. Clogs are used worldwide and although the form may vary by culture, it often remained unchanged for centuries. Traditional clogs were often worn in heavy labor. Today they remain in use as protective clothing in agriculture and in some factories and mines.
Nyonya Beaded Shoe is an artistic hand craft and heritage of the Baba Nyonya culture rooted in Melaka in the 20th century. Vintage kasut manik are intricate with fine stitches as a testimony to the fine workmanship of yesteryears. The intricacy and fine workmanship of a pair of beaded slipper is also a hallmark of highly accomplished Peranakan women, also known as Nyonyas, whose skills in embroidery and beadwork are highly valued. The beaded slippers were worn by both the Peranakan males (Baba) and females (Nyonya) and were popular in the 1930s.
Bound Feet Shoes
The practice of foot binding began in the tenth century by parents who wanted their daughters to get noticed by wealthy men of higher social status. For them, this is a ticket for a better life because having tiny feet for women signified beauty. Foot binding usually began at age four. A ten-foot-long, two-inch bandage was wrapped around the toes to forced them in against the sole. Each day the bandage was tightened until the foot was folded under with only the big toe sticking out, a shape called the “Golden Lotus” because it resembled a lotus pod with the petals removed.
Iron & Steel Smith
Iron is one of the most useful metals ever discovered, but it is also one of the most difficult metals to understand in history, especially in medieval history. Iron comes in several forms, and the complication involved in producing each of them fosters further confusion. However, these are just subsidiaries as the handmade iron and steel household still remain inherited by generation. Despite the demand for these items decreasing due to the presence of plastic wares and modern appliances, these handmade steel products still remain in better quality with a longer lifespan.
Pewter is a malleable metal alloy used in pottery and glass-making. It is made from 85-99% tin, with the remainder consisting of copper, antimony, bismuth, and sometimes, less commonly today, leads. Silver is also sometimes used. Copper and antimony act as hardeners while lead is common in the lower grades of pewter, which has a bluish tint. Melaka pewter craftsmen only made pewter in a small scale and concentrated on a traditional motif in terms of pewter design. Interestingly, Melaka-made pewter products can be found in many tourist spots such as Banda Hilir, Stadhuys Complex, Melaka Sentral, and Dataran Pahlawan.
Wooden Water Bucket
Handmade wooden water bucket has been in the country for many years. Most craftsmen started it as a leisure hobby but due to high demand in recent days, it has to be a day to day routine for these craftsmen to produce a few daily. Making wooden barrels is a painstaking, labor-intensive task. Most craftsmen could only make a barrel a day, for which they sell at around RM90 per bucket. All barrels are made of high-quality woods which are made for long-lasting usage and can be kept for good for years!
Lanterns are used to describe many types of portable lighting, but lanterns originated as a protective enclosure for a light source. Lanterns may also be used for signaling, as ‘torches’, or as general light sources outdoors during the ancient days. The term “lantern” is also used more generically to mean a ‘light source’ or the enclosure for a light source. The simplest technology used is the candle lantern. Candles give only a weak light and must be protected from wind to prevent flickering or complete extinguishment. A typical candle lantern is a metal box or cylinder with glass or mica side panels and an opening or ventilated cover on the top.
Stone Stamps Carving
This is a piece of personalized art with a name engraved for a lifetime in Chinese character translation. It also served as an ancient documentation seal. It is important in business in China (often required for signing official documents). Variations of stones are available for personal preference from plain stone to fancier stone with motifs of dragons, tigers, and other warrior animals in Chinese tradition. At a decent price, a piece of art on your own is worth a souvenir for your own self.