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Keepers of knowledge

Indonesia is home to many indigenous communities that inhabited islands from the western to the eastern most part of the archipelago. As stated by the UN and AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara), indigenous peoples of the world including in Indonesia are facing extinction every day. We feel the importance to document indigenous and traditional knowledge as many are lost along with the passing of the elders. The importance of documentation is not limited for archiving need, but its relevant to current way of living. Before, indigenous knowledge might have been seen outdated for the life of modern people yet now there has been a global resurgent of awareness that practice of indigenous knowledge is proven to be sustainable for the life on earth, in health & happiness, economic, social & cultural and spiritual aspect.

Cultural practices, traditions and values of indigenous peoples – as long as they are in line with human rights principles – can play a critical and positive role in advancing and promoting gender equality and human rights.

However, indigenous peoples have continued to experience loss of access to lands, territories and natural resources.

The result has been that indigenous cultures today are threatened with extinction in many parts of the world

(excerpt from un.org – Departement of Economic and Social Affair, Indigenous Peoples)

Indigenous peoples have, over the course of generations, developed rich sets of knowledge about the natural world, health, technologies and techniques, rites and rituals and other cultural expressions. Culture is one of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum (UNFPII) and is inextricably linked to indigenous peoples’ identity, their traditional knowledge, their experiences with the natural environment and hence their territorial and cultural rights.

(excerpt from un.org – Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues)

Indigenous peoples are the holders of unique languages, knowledge systems and beliefs and possess invaluable knowledge of practices for the sustainable management of natural resources.

Biru Terong Initiative has produced documentaries on handloom weavers in several areas in Indonesia, in partnership with Toraja Melo and Yayasan PEKKA. From our journeys, we came to understand the crucial role of audiovisual medium for documentation, here we share with you a short story; Handspun yarn is a traditional practice to produce yarn by hand. This knowledge used to be the only technique to produced yarn, and is still employed nowadays in some traditional handloom weaver communities. Yet less and less people master this technique and if the last Spinner passed away the knowledge will be buried with her and lost forever. There is a way to relearn this knowledge, that is by watching a person producing a handspun yarn even the elders are long gone. This is where audiovisual documentation steps in, audiovisual medium documentation can record therefore replay and re-enact the process of producing handspun yarn. Audiovisual medium for documentation becomes crucial since no other media performed this function, which in turn contributes a significant role in knowledge preservation.