Interview with the Queen of Malaysia: how she conquered London Craft Week – and her ambitions for the V&A

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The Queen’s husband, King Abdullah, 62, challenged the Queen in 2005 to revive the craft at a time when there were only 15 weavers left with the skills needed for the complex and time-consuming process involved. Fast forward to today and there are 167 weavers in action. The Queen, with the energy of Tigger, started a special school (for anyone aged 18-35), set up her own business and involved prisoners from the two men’s prisons of Bentong and Penor, in the Pahang region in Malaysia. ‘It’s easy for me to revive (and make sure it survives) – because they [the prisoners] are there eight until four. I make sure that the prisoners I teach to weave are the ones serving more than 10 years,” she explains.

And might a queen and a prison seem a little incongruous? “When my husband became king, he said, ‘I don’t let you go to jail anymore.’ and I said, ‘Actually, I’m sorry. It’s my job. ‘stop going there and I continued.’ And there you get a taste of the queen’s determination. ‘I go in and I go out [of the prison] All the time; I sit with them; I eat with them, she said, no one is allowed to enter the prison [in Malaysia] that’s why I use it as a platform, I use my position.

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