Indigenous peoples panel to look into Nas Academy deal with Whang-Od

August 6, 2021 - 2:46 PM
Traditional Kalinga tattooist Whang-Od in a July 2016 photo. (Wikimedia Commons)

A regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples will conduct an inquiry into the supposed contract signing between the Nas Academy and Kalinga tattoo artist Whang-Od.

In a statement on Thursday, August 5, lawyer Marlon Bosantog of the NCIP-Cordillera Administrative Region argued that brandishing a contract on social media is not considered “proof of compliance.”

“Bandying on social media a contract is not a proof of compliance. The NCIP will make our review and onsite validation and interview, whether the free, prior, and informed consent process should have been implemented on this incident,” Bosantog said.

He was referring to the video Nas Academy released earlier that day as supposed proof that Whang-Od and her family consented to create the online traditional tattoo course on their learning platform.

The video shows the veteran “mambabatok” inking a document with her thumb.

Bosantog, however, said there are certain tattoo designs that belong only to the Kalinga community as an “expression of their culture and traditions.”

Indigenous peoples, therefore, have intellectual property rights on these specific designs as well. He said:

“Certainly, we celebrate the artistic expression of Apo Whang-od and will not stand in her capacity to enter into private contracts. However, recently, the Kalinga community had made known their claim on certain tattoo designs as belonging to the entire Indigenous Community being an expression of their culture and traditions, and such they opposed the usage of the same by a well-known clothing brand…

“Indigenous Peoples have Intellectual Property claims to cultural expressions and there are issues of cultural intellectual property that intersect in the art of Apo Whang-od.”

In an earlier statement, Bosantog assured the public that the issue had already reached the agency and is currently looking into the matter.

“NCIP-CAR is made aware of the issue surrounding our revered mababatok Apo Whang-od and a certain blogger. Rest assured that appropriate intervention is initiated,” he said.

The official also thanked those who sent them the reports about allegations of exploitation surrounding Palestinian-Israeli vlogger Nuseir Yassin and the content-creating initiative he founded.

“We are thankful for the immediate response and concern from the public. It shows that the exploitation of our Indigenous Peoples is a public matter deserving of moral outrage,” Bosantog said.

The topic “Nas Daily” had been on Twitter Philippines’ trending list last night. As of writing, it has more than 33,000 tweets under it.

Gracia Palicas, Whang-Od’s apprentice and grandniece lodged the accusation against Nas Academy in now-deleted Facebook posts early this week.

Palicas slammed the online course of Whang-Od on the website as a “scam” and disrespectful to their culture.

READ: Whang-Od’s apprentice finds Nas Daily course offering exploitative

Nas Academy later issued a statement and attempted to counter Palicas’ claims with a video of the contract signing.

They also tried to turn the tables around, saying the relative’s posts were mere “falsehoods.”

READ: Nas Academy shows video proof that Whang-Od gave course a go-ahead