By FARIK ZOLKEPLI
KUALA TERENGGANU: At a time when few people saw the prospects of a hand-made songket business, a former technician defied the odds and built an empire based on Terengganu’s best fabric dubbed “Manang Songket”.
With only a secondary school education, Wan Manang Wan Awang entered the working world as a Public Works Department technician in the 1970s but soon realised it was not his calling.
The 57-year-old said making songket was initially just a hobby as he often watched his mother and grandmother make them using an old songket-making machine, but things changed when he realised he could build on the family legacy.
“I took a risk and received orders from colleagues. To my surprise, they were satisfied with my work.
“It was hard in the beginning as I did not have much capital and had to use my technician’s salary,” he said.
From his humble home in Durian Burung here, Wan Manang worked tirelessly on the loyal songket-making machine, which he dubbed “Kei-Tenunan”.
“Within a few years, even people outside Terengganu came to know of Manang Songket. I quit my job as a technician after 15 years and focused on the business full-time,” he said.
He added that his company began with four workers but now had about 120 employees.
“Initially, we only managed to produce around two songket per month but currently, we produce an average of 30 pieces per month,” he said.
Wan Manang’s customers now consist of people from all walks of life, including public figures such as Malaysian diva Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and members of royal families.
Wan Manang’s brand of songket was used by Siti during her wedding to Datuk Seri Khalid Muhammad Jiwa a few years ago.
Even after achieving success, Wan Manang is still hands-on in the production process as he inspects every single piece to ensure its quality while spending many sleepless nights innovating new patterns of songket.
After three generations of songket makers, Wan Manang hopes to pass on the legacy to his son aged 20, and two daughters aged 22 and 26.
He also hopes to penetrate the European market and ensure the important cultural heritage becomes popular globally.