I first knew of Wan Norzita Megat Othman when she invited me to take a look at her bead work on her blog, Endless Beads. I am glad I did pop over to see because she is an exquisite bead work artisan, passionate artist who loves baking too.

Norzita is currently living in Malaysia which is next to Indonesia and Singapore (her birthplace). Although I have spent all my adulthood in England and Canada, Malaysia is actually the country of my birth so I'm very familiar with the region.

The country is divided into two. West Malaysia on the left, where Norzita and I come from, is the more densely populated part. East Malaysia occupies the northern parts of the large island of Borneo.

Malaysia and Singapore were once British colonies which is why many of the citizens still speak and write English. The population is ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse - mostly Malays, Chinese and East Indians. Virtually all of them speak more than one language and enjoy a wonderfully varied cuisine.

thE Baju KuRungImage by Ur_noS

Norzita hails from the Malay population. One form of traditional dress of Malay women is called the baju kurung ("enclosed dress") which is sometimes worn with a headscarf if the wearer is of the Muslim faith.

It consists of a long knee-length blouse worn over a long skirt, pleated on one side - a simple design ideal for a tropical climate where the humid heat can be merciless. It's also versatile as it can be worn for casual or formal occasions. The modern preference is for bright colors although traditionalists like it made from batik.

What you see here are my favorites from Norzita's extensive collection of exquisite bead embellished baju kurungs - the Teluk Belanga style which is collarless - featured on her blog. She decorates the sleeves and the collar area making these baju kurung suitable for formal occasions. She has a really good eye for color and patterns. It is especially challenging when embellishing printed fabrics.

She is also an accomplished beaded jewelry maker:

Do check out my past post on the Sanggul Lintang, the fabulous traditional bejewelled hair adornments of traditional Malay brides.

Here is a video of some Malaysian traditional costumes. Included are those of the Orang Asli or aboriginal tribal people.

You can also see Malay costumes in this cultural dance demo. The dancers are performing the joget, my favorite of all the Malay dances because it is the most lively and fun. It is a deceptively tricky tempo to master. The dance is usually performed at formal occasions like Malay weddings where the audience is invited to join in afterward!

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