Indigenous Ingenuity

Close your eyes. Imagine a country made up of islands, in which wooden boats on waterways were the primary mode of travel from your hut to the next village, passing water hyacinths along the way. You are part of a fishing community that, for ages, have relied on the sea as one of your food sources. Now imagine, that because of overfishing and climate change, there are no more fish. What do you do?

Last week during the F.A.K.E. Virtual Pop-up on April 26, 2020, our Designer, Claire Powers, talked about the different indigenous tribes we work with whose handwoven textiles she incorporates into KINDOM sustainable fashion. During the livestream virtual pop-up, the subject turned into how the Iranun indigenous group of the Southern Philippines started experiencing some gender equality and began turning some of their dishes into vegan eats due to a tribal tribulation.

A few hundred years ago, the Iranun people (also Ilanun, Illanun, Illanoan, Illanoon, Ilanoon, etc.) were known as a strong pirate community. Negotiations and alliances with neighboring kingdoms validated the Iranun's position as a stronghold. As time passed, colonization and assimilation changed Iranun society and culture. Many areas became fishing villages.

Upon taking a boat to a local village to see the artisans on one rainy morning, Claire found a male weaver for the first time in the community. Once a fisherman (and a descendant of pirates!), he said that he is very thankful to have found weaving, so he has a source of income to feed his young family that includes four children and his wife. In this day and age of climate change and overconsumption, one must seize the opportunities!

The scarcity of fish also has forced the Iranuns to be resourceful and add some changes to their diet. Many dishes have been veganized, and instead of protein, replacement vegetables include banana stalks, banana hearts, and jackfruit. It's common practice in a few Philippine provinces to mix salt with vegetables in order to eliminate any undesirable (often bitter) aftertaste, if any, as a way of prepping the vegetable before preparing or cooking their cuisines. Here's a video of an Iranun dish where banana stalk is substituted for fish:

The Iranun, like most indigenous communities all over the world, have knowledge and experience from ancient times, passed down from generation to generation. But because they are often marginalized and in poverty, their cultures are disappearing along with that knowledge, as they are vulnerable to the negative effects on the planet in which our "civilization" contributes to. Let's keep them protected and their traditions preserved by supporting them though their craftsmanship, and sharing their indigenous cultural practices to keep them alive, like the banana stalk as food.



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