30 August 2022

The book launch was held at the Mbombela campus. Written and compiled by six authors: Dr Blessing Magocha, Dr Itumeleng Mekong, Professor Sekgothe Mokgoatšana, Dr Tsholofelo Mosala, Dr Ikemefuna TP Okudolo, Professor Pitika Ntuli and Dr Zulumathabo Zulu, the book unapologetically goes against the current Afro-pessimism that has been a harsh reality for decades under colonial and apartheid control in Africa.

Giving insight into the book, Dr Mapadimeng explains that the academics who contributed to the various chapters highlight the significance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) to restore the dignity of the historically suppressed indigenous people and their identities, and to sustain development of African societies.

“In doing so, they identify the gaps in and limitations of effective regulation and support of the IKS in the present legal and policy frameworks, and they propose remedies. The volume features a variety of interlocking topics that collectively showcase the rich knowledge that constitute the IKS,” he said.

“The knowledge that we have been predominating thus far has proven to be of a limited nature and that’s why, in the last few years, we have seen students starting protests during which they called for the end of postcolonial education.

UMPDr Mapadimeng explored various chapters from the book, giving attendees a look inside this invaluable publication. 

The #RhodesMustFall movement overtook the world of scholarship and academia when students stood up and said that it was time to decolonise education and the curriculum. Therefore, this book is in the same context of the struggle that continues as we seek to decolonise,” explained Dr Mapadimeng.

A glimpse inside the book

In the book, like-minded, globally oriented Afrocentric scholars make a cogent case for resuscitating and supporting the indigenous knowledge systems of Africa.

The chapter, Recognising African Traditional Healing and Medicine in South Africa: A Case of the Traditional Health Act 22 of 2007, was written by Dr Zulumathabo Zulu, who explains that there are three principles of indigenous healing modalities.

“The first is botanical medicine, which refers to terrestrial plants which are land-based and aquatic. The second principle is volcanic medicine, which you get from rock, mountains, charcoal and volcanic ash, to name a few. The third principle is ritualistic medicine, this medicine deals with the spirit, the mind and indigenous psychological science,” he added.

“The Africans, especially where I come from, spoke about the different types of the body, but what is interesting is that diseases have to do with membranes. These people did not have microscopes and a cell is not visible. So you may ask yourself how they knew these things that are not visible?"

Dr Zulu further said: “It is interesting that the water-based plants, which you find in the ocean such as seaweed, have a certain ingredient that is extremely good for mucus membranes. They believed that if you can heal the mucus membrane you can heal all kinds of diseases. The best things you can find in a water plant will be slime, for example, and that slime is powerful medicine.”

Another author, Dr Tsholofelo Masala, penned the chapter titled: What Lies Beneath the Waters? Hidden Healing Treasures, which focuses mainly on water-based or aquatic healing plants; those in salty sea waters and those in land-locked waters.

UMPDirector of Library and Information Services at UMP, Ms Zanele Mathe. 

“In this chapter, I highlight the distinction between the western scientific perspective on what lies beneath the waters, which tends to focus on the plant and animal species and the lifecycle of ecosystems and the ninth western cosmological perspective of the African perspective," said Dr Masala.

Speaking about the chapter: Advocating African Indigenous Knowledge Systems Amid Dominant Western Scientific Thought and Development by Professor Itumeleng Mekoa, who passed on last year, Dr Mapadimeng said it serves as a postcolonial theory.

“African scholars are unapologetic about African IKS and its opposition to claims about western scientific objectivism, for example, understanding causal coral relationships and the prediction of the behaviour are not necessarily primary objectives in research.

Sanity can be understood in everyday turns or in the light of African cosmology belief systems that do not have laboratory proof. The methodology of scientific experimentation is viewed as overlooking levels of human experience which they facilitate and track, such as the spiritual and ritualistic dimensions of human lives,” he said.

Reviewing the book, Professor Abiodun Salawu, Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies and Director of the research entity, Indigenous Language Media in Africa (ILMA) at the North-West University, said the book comes at a time during which the issue of decolonisation is at centre stage, not only in the colonised world but the globally as well.

“We don’t have to over-romanticise the African past. In the African tradition, there are good and bad practices which we will find elsewhere. We should harness the past for the development of the continent and our people," said Professor Salawu.

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChristplPhoto