Centre of Malaysia Indigenous Studies

Talk on The Future of Intangible Knowledge with Reference to Pua Kumbu by Dr. Welyne J. Jehom

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ABOUT THE TALK

The importance of intangible cultural heritage is the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. Pua kumbu, a tie and natural dye resist textile in Sarawak, has long been known as sacred traditional cloths woven on backstrap looms by the Iban women weavers. As an aesthetic material culture, the pua kumbu possesses a unique identity that carries the legend, stories and rhymes that are inseparable from the traditional Iban cosmology and belief system. Once a ritualistic cloth, at present day, the pua kumbu has become only the symbol of Iban identity and cultural pride because of transformations in their belief system, way of life and education.

The knowledge and skills in the production of pua kumbu are becoming very scarce amongst the young generation of Iban women, most of whom treat this intangible cultural heritage as the knowledge and skills of their grandmothers. It is becoming a dying art. Collective memory seems to be the only way to restore the fragments of knowledge and skills of pua kumbu production – identification of the name of design, motif, rhyme and story for each design ever produced in the past. The application of memories of pua kumbu narratives as the path to identify each pua kumbu ever produced is guarded by traditional intellectual property rights owned by families who have the recognized ownership of designs; it can give both positive and negative impacts in the work of conservation and restoration of the knowledge.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Dr. Welyne Jeffrey Jehom is currently under the Department Of Anthropology And Sociology in the Faculty Of Arts And Social Sciences of the University of Malaya.

She is of Bidayuh descent, born and raised in Kuching, Sarawak. She is motivated to be in the academic world in an effort to prove the highest of education qualifications is achievable despite having limited resources available and being a woman – one needs is the motivation. Therefore, in Dr. Welyne’s research in recent years, she focuses on problems that hinders development and the progress of the community she is dear to, and research that deals with the development of the community from within