Entertainment management and production company Cornerstone Entertainment, its talent Catriona Gray, and the embattled Nas Academy announced Sunday, August 8, that they would hit pause on what would have been the Catriona Gray Academy.
“Cornerstone Entertainment, Catriona Gray, and NAS Academy have agreed to stop accepting new applicants for the Catriona Gray Academy until the issue of Whang-Od has been fully resolved,” Cornerstone said in a statement on social media.
Around the same time, Nas Academy announced it would be pausing operations in the Philippines.
Nas Academy, an online learning platform launched by popular vlogger Nuseir Yassin, had been under fire of late after it launched a course that featured traditional tattoo artist Whang-Od and promised to “reveal all the rituals, tools, and methods for making traditional tattoos.”
Whang-Od’s grandniece, Grace Palicas, called the Nas Academy course a “scam” and said the vlogger’s team did not sign a contract with the 104-year-old. Nas Academy insisted it had Whang-Od’s consent, posting a video of the tattoo artist affixing her thumbprint onto a contract as proof.
Securing permission and consent when it comes to indigenous peoples’ traditions, however, is not that simple. A Philippine anthropologist has pointed out that permission must be secured from the tribe, and not just Whang-Od herself. Whang-Od belongs to the Butbut tribe of Kalinga.
Philippine law also requires “free and prior informed consent” – a provision that protects indigenous peoples and their traditions.
“Free and prior informed consent” means that the consent and consensus of all members of the tribe should be obtained based on their “respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference, and coercion, and obtained after fully disclosing the intent and scope of the activity, in a language and process understandable to the community.”
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region earlier announced it was reviewing the alleged contract between Nas Academy and Whang-Od.
Cornerstone said it would “continue to monitor the progress” of the incident. (READ: Netizens urge Catriona Gray, Jessica Soho: Back out of Nas Academy, take a stand)
Whang-Od is revered as one of the last living artists practicing the art of traditional Kalinga tattooing – a hand-tapped method using thorns and charcoal for ink. In 2018, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts gave her the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Catriona, Miss Universe 2018, was supposed to launch the Catriona Gray Academy via Nas Academy. The course promised sessions with the beauty queen to help participants “speak [their] mind, build self-confidence, overcome insecurities, and win over challenges.”
Catriona has not yet spoken out about the controversy hounding Nas Academy but shared Cornerstone’s statement on her Instagram Stories. – Rappler.com