A Cultural Exchange with the Attaqua Community!

In the realm of Food Science & Technology, the primary field in which the Station operates, one often needs to work with different cultures, bacteria mostly, as was seen with the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

Fortunately, the exchange referred to above was a much more pleasant exercise. The Station was honored to host a delegation from the Attaqua Community from the Oudtshoorn area of the province. The substance of this gathering of minds is presented later in this blog. But let’s first understand or contextualize the term and grouping called the Attaqua. The Attaqua community is one of the Khoekhoe group which further includes the Inqua, Outeniqua, Hessequa, Namaqua, Chainoqua, Cocohoqua, Sonoqua and Griqua. Qua in Khoekhoe means people. Not being a historian or schooled in the history, I will leave this there for now in case I make misrepresentations. But I do insist that you read up on this rich history of the people referred to! There are numerous Google references for such and I will thus not foist my own favourites upon you.  I am myself related to the bigger grouping and have an interest in it from a personal point of view.

To business!! The Station hosts the Western Cape Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC). This involves documenting and protecting indigenous knowledge of different types in different communities. For a complete description of this, see a recent blog here detailing the bigger project.

We have been busy working with the Attaqua community since early 2019. As part of this process, the Community Steering Committee of the Attaqua wished to visit the premises of ATS in order to build closer ties and also for both parties to explore how we could better assist each other in our respective endeavours.

Nine members of the Committee visited on the 2nd October 2019. It was a meeting/ visit of note for a number of different reasons. The agenda had three major points:

  1. Consideration of a draft Cooperation Agreement between CPUT and the Attaqua community. It must be noted that the Steering Committee itself is a delegated or representative body of the mother body which is the Khoi Cultural Heritage Development Council of South Africa (KCHDC-SA).
  2. A tour of the Food Science & Technology facility toward facilitating an understanding of the potential for further cooperation.
  3. A visit to the Technology Station in Clothing & Textiles, since the issue of indigenous knowledge related to textiles was considered relevant to the conversation.

The Attaqua delegation was led by Chief Poem Mooney who himself is Vice Chairperson of KCHDC-SA. He was accompanied by five Steering Committee members as well as three Recorders. Recorders are appointed community members who conduct the day to day interviewing and recording of potential indigenous knowledge holders. All such collected data is later verified and then loaded onto a national system which is protected and only accessible through a specific protocol. The latter protocol and overall management of the system is done under the newly-renamed Department of Science & Innovation (DSI) .

The meeting itself was a resounding success in my humble mind, albeit that this may be seen as a subjective statement. The outcomes of the meeting may be summarised as follows:

  1. The preamble to the meeting involved an extended introduction of role players. This bordered both on the technical aspects of the project but more so on the softer issues related to working with real mense! We were able to relate on a personal level in terms of who we are and why we are doing this project. Funnily enough, the overall conversation also touched on other points in terms of people we knew in common (strange how small the world is), and on things like ballroom dancing which was also a common link.
  2. The draft Cooperation Agreement was discussed and amendments suggested to the satisfaction of both parties but with the proviso that it is still open to further input once a document had been sent to the community and DSI. I personally, together with my legal colleague from the Technology Transfer Office (TTO), really appreciated the “cultural” aspects of the exchange and some of the indigenous knowledge shared during this conversation. The little bits of history around the Attaqua as a community was also very interesting.
  3. As expected, the tour of the Pilot Plant and labs elicited excited responses in terms of what could be achieved using CPUT as a vehicle for future work. This always gives us as staff a warm feeling and muted pride in what we had developed over the last 10 years.
  4. The visit to the TSCT further elicited more interest based on the fact that training could be offered to community members and/ or start-ups in different fields. Mr. Shamil Isaacs and his staff saw potential for further interaction and a decision was taken to explore this relationship further.

As an overall comment, potential projects had been identified outside of the primary IKSDC project and these will be explored further over the coming weeks. I certainly have an excited feeling about it and I know that our Attaqua colleagues left with the same sentiments as well.

Here’s to future engagement and collaboration.

Larry Dolley