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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Indigenous knowledge systems and higher education


The Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Group at CPUT had its first seminar of the year on 13 March 2008. This was a continuation of a series of discussions that had been held in 2007 covering a variety of topics that relate to indigenous knowledge systems and education.

Indigenous knowledge systems are the intricate systems that have been created, adapted, inherited and copied by communities over generations to create, store, retrieve and pass on a body of knowledge for those communities to use as they interact with their environments and forever-changing contexts. Such systems encompass all facets of life and are of special relevance and importance to the various fields of study pursued in formal education systems.

One of the presenters, Verna Jooste, discussed the indigenous methods used by African goldsmiths to smelt gold and copper and to fashion objects. Her analysis was built around objects that had been discovered at the Mapungubwe site.

Her central argument was that some of the methods used in formal design education can be inaccessible to students because of the expense. She elaborated on how one does not need sophiscated machinery to make wire and wire jewellery. She also discussed the merits of manufacturing using fire rather than bottled gas in a removed technical space and about why the gold from time gone by feels like it has such soul – because such community and energy was put into it

Ms Jooste suggests that students and teachers of design should learn more about indigenous knowledge systems as it will help them understand African traditions of working and how they are relevant to contemporary design education.

By Zininzi Ntando

Photograph: Jumpring necklaces. Source: Mapungubwe: South Africa's Crown Jewels by Sian Tiley (Sunbird, 2004).

Written by CPUT News