Traditional Knowledge in Bruneian Culture, Arts

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Bandar Seri Begawan – Traditional Knowledge (TK) refers to longstanding traditions and practices of certain indigenous, regional and local communities. It is sometimes referred to as Indigenous Knowledge (IK), Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) and Local Knowledge.

Brunei Darussalam has been practising TK in the seven ethnic Malays. The arts, traditional medicine, culture, practice, cuisine, traditional motives, literature and other forms of TK were passed on through stories, legends, folklores, rituals, songs and customs.

The role of the Adat and Pusaka is very vital in maintaining the TK of the Brunei Malays. The unwritten legislature where the codification and implementation of the Adat (Customary law) and its role as a Pusaka (heirlooms to the ancestors) takes place in all aspects of the society

Such examples of TK include:
Babarut, Bebadung and Bechakok – The art of healing abdominal pain in children through the use of betel leaves (Sirih), acreca palm (Pinang, Gambier (Gambir) and Kapur; and wrapping the child’s abdomen with a piece of cloth.

The preparation of Ambuyat – The delicate preparation of the Ambuyat was passed on through practical knowledge and stories from the elderly.

Memburis Perahu – Long before modern technology in boat making and the era of fibre-glass was introduced, the traditional making of the boats in Kampong Ayer was left to master craftsmen using limited tools but yet, creatively done to produce boats of different shapes, sizes and uses.

Mengangun – The preparation of the bride and groom before marriage includes different procedures in a structured system of the Adat. Only certain elderly with adequate knowledge and preparation can carry out the job of the Pengangun.

As there is no proper documentation of the TK, the issue of protection of such knowledge has been of a great concern by states and governments and was discussed regionally and internationally.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) outlined and compiled some examples of special laws and measures, which specifically protect traditional knowledge, sometimes referred to as sui generis laws; patent laws which provide protection of a sui generis nature for traditional knowledge; and laws and measures which establish regulatory frameworks for traditional knowledge that have an effect on, or relate to, intellectual property-type protection (www. wipoint). A range of sui generis laws that protect TK includes Constitutional Law, Special/Specific Laws and Legislative Measures, Patent Laws and Regulatory Framework for TK.

In Brunei Darussalam, various government agencies and institutions have been working handin-hand to protect TK. The Ministry of Education through SPN21 has highlighted the importance of TK in the subjects of Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB); Social Studies; and Business, Art and Technology (BAT) in the curriculum.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports through the Culture and the Arts Section is working on an inventory of arts, culture and TK, in line with the UNESCO’s Conventions on the Protection of World Heritage, Cultural Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Museums Department and the Brunei History Centre has been doing anthropological and archaeological studies on TK. So do Universiti Brunei Darussalam and other government agencies.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has been actively involved in the protection of Intellectual Properties through Brunei Darussalam’s Emergency (Copyright) Order, 1999. The Brunei Economic Development Board established the Patents Registry Office earlier this year.

As much as the nation puts in place legislations, institutions and government agencies to protect TK, it is up to us, the pride of the nation and the people of this peaceful and prosperous country of Brunei Darussalam, to carry on protecting our TK through constant usage of this knowledge and include every aspect of TK in our lives through living culture.

The Bruneian identity is defined as civilisation, values and personalities governed by the national ideology of the MIB.

With TK being practised in our lives, we are sure that Brunei Darussalam will be coherent and the identity of us Bruneians will be sustained whatever the challenges of the global world may be. (Courtesy of Intellectual Property and Registry Division, Attorney General’s Chambers)

Borneo Bulletin ,28 July 2012

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