University of Malaya

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

The Wilderness Among Us: New Horizons in Urban Nature Conservation by Benjamin Ong

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ABOUT THE TALK

We live in the Anthropocene, an age where humans might as well be gods. Across the world, rapid development, deforestation and other forms of environmental degradation are driving habitats and species to extinction faster than we can save them. More than 75 per cent of Malaysians now live in urban areas, generally disconnected from the bulk of nature conservation efforts that take place in large swathes of remaining natural ecosystem far from towns and cities.

Meanwhile, in spite of human action, nature exerts her own agency. While we encroach on wild areas, a sizeable number of plants and animals demonstrate remarkable resilience in adapting to urban settings. While urban areas are seldom associated with biodiversity conservation, patches and pathways of habitats and ecological corridors exist within the city. These support wildlife and challenge our assumptions of sterility, our understanding of urban green space, and our expectations of green cities.

This talk presents the preliminary findings of an ecological survey conducted by The Rimba Project at the Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM) centre in downtown KL. It revisits a decade-old tree-planting project on the site, reviewing its progress and considering its significance amidst the backdrop of rapid development in KL’s Golden Triangle. Presenting a glimpse into the diverse animal life found in BWM’s one-hectare site, this talk argues that space can, in fact, be considered a hybrid expression of ex-situ and in-situ conservation. It is a co-produced space where human and natural agency operates in tandem, where the unexpected encounter with a bird, bat or insect may yet surprise us even as we go about our busy, busy lives.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Benjamin Ong is an ecologist based at the University of Malaya’s Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden, where he founded and manages The Rimba Project, a campus sustainability and urban conservation initiative. In 2016, he was awarded a Chevening-CIMB ASEAN scholarship to study Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews. He won the Chevening Green Volunteer of the Year award in 2017 for his work with the Transition University of St Andrews, a community-based sustainability organisation. Benjamin’s research interests centre on the relationship between human communities and nature, especially in the urban space. He is an avid writer and photographer. His latest book, The Backyard Before You, is a meditation on biodiversity conservation in the urban residential neighbourhood.