Turkey, assembled in Malaysia
Charm vest early 20th century
brocade, printed fabric, embroidery
51.0 x 49.0 cm
Department of Museums and Antiquities, Kuala Lumpur
Textiles brought back to Southeast Asia by people returning from pilgrimages to the Holy Land (hajj) were highly valued and sometimes used for making charm vests. Such garments were worn on occasions marking life cycle events and as protective talismans. Turkish fabrics were especially prized, possibly because their zigzag patterns recalled the kiswah cloth that covers Islam’s holiest shrine, the Ka’abah. This vest was made in Malaysia using cloth imported from Turkey. The text on the textile includes the essential statement of Islamic faith, the Shahadah, which reads ‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet’, as well as a passage from the Qur’an.