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INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS AND ETHNOMATHEMATICS Mogege Mosimege Department of Science and Technology Pretoria, South Africa mogege.mosimege@dst.gov.za Presentation made in the Panel on IKS and Ethnomathematics at the ICEM 3 Conference, Langham Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, 13 February 2006. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS AND ETHNOMATHEMATICSMogege MosimegeDepartment of Science and TechnologyPretoria, South Africamogege.mosimege@dst.gov.za

    Presentation made in the Panel on IKS and Ethnomathematics at the ICEM 3 Conference, Langham Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, 13 February 2006

  • HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS WITH RESPECT TO INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS (IKS) IN SOUTH AFRICA: AUDITS AND WORKSHOPS1996: Meeting between Chairperson of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Portfolio Committee and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) ExecutiveOctober 1996 January 1997: Pilot of Indigenous technologies Audit at University of The North (now University of Limpopo Turfloop Campus)February 1997: Workshop at UNIN; Decision to conduct a national AuditMarch 1997 December 1998: Audit conducted by following Universities (i) University of Venda (ii) University of North West (now the Mafikeng Campus of the North West University (iii) Vista University Mamelodi (now the Mamelodi Campus of the University of Pretoria) (iv) UNISA (v) University of the North Qwaqwa Campus (now Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State (vi) University of Zululand (vii) University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University) (viii) University of Fort HareJanuary December 1998: Provincial Workshops conducted by each UniversityFirst National Workshop on IKS at University of North West: September 1998 (jointly organized by the Portfolio Committee, DACST, and the CSIR; Supported by other stakeholders)

  • LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE AUDITExtent and depth of knowledge of indigenous and local peopleMarginalization of the knowledge and exclusion of the knowledge from the mainstreamLack of recognition and acknowledgement of knowledge holdersLack of protection of the knowledge, leading to exploitation and biopiracyMisconceptions related to the knowledgeRole of researchers and research methodologies cannot remain the same as in other areas of researchCommitment by government, Science Councils, Universities, Traditional Leaders, Indigenous Knowledge Holders and other stakeholdersInternational role players, especially the role of pharmaceuticals in collaboration with national role players

  • IKS IN DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (DST)Establishment of Ministerial task team to Draft Legislation and Policy on IKS in 1999: Team headed by Prof Catherine Odora-Hoppers (based at the HSRC)Delegations by Task Team to India and China in 1999 2000 to learn about IKS in the two countriesProvision of ring-fenced funding to the NRF for research in IKS since 2000Establishment of Unit dedicated to IKS in the Science and Technology Branch of the Department of Arts, Culture Science and Technology in 2001

  • IKS IN SOUTH AFRICA: THE NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION (NRF)Defines IKS as a complex set of knowledge and technologies existing and developed around specific conditions of populations and communities indigenous to a particular geographic area (NRF, 2000)Has established an IKS Research Focus in addition to the 8 Focus Areas on: Distinct South African Research Opportunities; Economic Growth and International Competitiveness; Conservation and Management of Ecosystems and Biodiversity; Education and the Challenges for Change (Science, Mathematics and Technology Education is funded here); Globalization Challenges; ICT; Sustainable Livelihoods; Unlocking the Future

  • NRF: IKS FOCUS AREAAdministers a ring-fenced amount of R10m per annum which has been provided by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) since 2000At least 400 Research Grants have been awarded thus farThere are 4 Research Themes Ethnomathematics is funded in one of the 4 Areas:The production, transmission and utilization of indigenous knowledge (IK) and technologyThe role of IK in nation building (Traditional Medicine & Health; Indigenous Food Systems; Socio Cultural Systems Indigenous Languages, Indigenous notions of Science and Technology; Arts, Crafts and Materials)IK at the interface with other knowledge systemsIntroducing IKS into the mainstream of education

  • INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS: SOME DEFINITIONSIndigenous knowledge is the local knowledge knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. IK contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by universities, research institutions and private firms. It is the basis for local-level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural-resource management, and a host of other activities in rural communities. (Warren, 1991)Indigenous knowledge is used synonymously with traditional and local knowledge to differentiate the knowledge developed by a community from the international knowledge systems sometimes called Western system, generated through universities, government research centres and private industry. IK refers to the knowledge of indigenous peoples as well as any other defined community. (Warren, 1992)The unique, traditional, local knowledge existing within and developed around specific conditions of women and men indigenous to a particular geographic area. (Louise Grenier, Working with Indigenous Knowledge. A Guide for Researchers, International Development Research Centre, 1998)

  • INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE: SOME MORE DEFINITIONSAn all inclusive knowledge that covers technologies and practices that have been and are still used by indigenous and local people for existence, survival and adaptation in a variety of environments. Such knowledge is not static but evolves and changes as it develops, influences and is influenced by both internal and external circumstances and interaction with other knowledge systems. Such knowledge covers contents and contexts such as agriculture, architecture, engineering, mathematics, governance and other social systems and activities, medicinal and indigenous plant varieties, etc. (Onwu & Mosimege, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Science and Technology Education: A Dialogue, African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, V 8, No. 1, 2004)

  • IKS POLICYKey Policy Drivers 4IKS and the National Systems of Education and InnovationStakeholders and Role Players in IKSInstitutional FrameworkIKS Funding and PrinciplesNational and International ImperativesRole of various Government Departments and the Intergovernmental Committee on IKS

  • KEY POLICY DRIVERS IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONTEXTAffirmation of African cultural values in the face of globalisation Development of the services provided by Indigenous Knowledge Holders and PractitionersContribution of indigenous knowledge to the economy Interfacing with other knowledge systems

  • SOME MAJOR THEMES IN ETHNOMATHEMATICAL RESEARCH: ANALYSIS FROM STUDIES IN SOUTH AFRICAMural Decorations (dominant in the Mpumalanga Province)Indigenous GamesBeadworkWeaving (baskets, mats, knots, pyramids, hexagons, etc)Traditional House BuildingCultural VillagesHistorical Development of Mathematical Concepts e.g. CountingLinguistics and Mathematics Indigenous Languages and Mathematics EducationCultural ArtifactsInterface between culture and mathematics broadlyDaily activities in the context of the mathematics classroom

  • SOUTH AFRICAN SPORTS COMMISSION AND INDIGENOUS GAMESSouth African Sports Commission (SASC) took the initiative to revive indigenous games through the Indigenous Games ProjectFormation of a National Structure which involves all the 9 ProvincesSASC collected 23 indigenous games from the different regions of South AfricaPublished a Booklet on South African Indigenous Games in 2001 containing 7 of the 23 gamesPrevious Minister of Sports Ngconde Balfour launched the Indigenous Games at Basotho Cultural Village in the Eastern Part of the Free State on 24 February 2001

  • SEVEN GAMES LAUNCHED AT BASOTHO CULTURAL VILLAGEDibeke: A running ball gameKho-Kho: A running gameNtimo/Kgati: A rope-jumping gameDiketo: A coordination gameJukskei: A target gameNcuva/Morula: A board gameMorabaraba: A board game

  • MORABARABA GAME: HISTORY AND BACKGROUNDSouth African War Games Union (with Headquarters in Johannesburg) has been organizing competitions on the game over a number of years at least 10 yearsHave written some historical background on the gameDoubts about origin of the game, reference is usually made to an Egyptian originResearch by Mosimege (2000) indicated that the elderly Tswana men learnt the game during the days when they looked after cattle (herdboys): Interviewed a number elderly men in their 70sThis research disputed strongly some of the rules as written by the South African War Games Union. For instance the rules relating to the end of the game not 2 but 3 cows.

  • SOME PERSPECTIVES ON MORABARABA FROM INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE HOLDERS (ELDERS)It is neither a boys nor a girls game, both can play the gameMorabaraba, even though used the most, is actually a South Sotho name, the name in Setswana is MmelaHistorically, the game was drawn on a flat stone, at times on the groundMeasurement and Straightness of lines done through the bark of a shrub called bokwetseEstimation and Comparison of lengths of lines done using the Middle finger and ThumbRules of the game: A cow does not move on 3 legs, so the game does not end when 2 tokens are left but rather when 3 are left




  • MORUBA: HISTORY AND BACKGROUNDMancala (Mankala) type games found in many parts of the world (Broline and Loeb, 1996).Mancala a generic name given by anthropologists to refer to a class of various board games (Ismael ,1997; Odeleye, 1997)Various names used in different African countries:- Moruba: Limpopo (mostly the North Sotho speaking parts) Province of South Africa- Ntchuva, Mpela, Thadji: Mozambique- Oware: Ghana- Ayo: Nigeria- Soro: Tanzania- Omweso: Uganda

  • SOME PERSPECTIVES ON MORUBA FROM INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE HOLDERSIt is predominantly a mens game used during war, as a result no women played the game as they were not allowed to go to war; men played it the most when they went to the mines in the Gauteng Province; However in recent days both boys and girls play the gameMoruba a social activity where men strategised about a variety of activities and events relating to men, also shared advise and ideasLanguage, Expressions and Terminology used during the game even signify what happens when war takes placeTwo-Row Version (called Semmeh in Limpopo Province) very basic in the South of Africa although dominant in the North of Africa, Four-Row Version the most dominant version in the South of AfricaPlayers have to be extremely capable of quick calculations to know how many takes are available at which stage of the game


  • STRING FIGURE GAMES (MALEPA): HISTORY AND BACKGROUNDThe historical record of string figures in Africa dates back to almost 100 yearsMost of this work is found in Alfred Haddons work of 1906. This work refers to the pastime by Negro tribes, and most of these coming from AfricaIn the research by Mosimege, reference is made by the elderly that they used to play Malepa around the evening fires when they were young. This would at least be about 100 years ago.Most of the participants at the workshops I have attended indicate how they used to play these when they were young

  • SOME PERSPECTIVES ON MALEPA FROM INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE HOLDERSName and meaning of game: Even though it is generally known as Diheke because of the gates that appear on the string, the appropriate name is Malepa signifying the complexity of the manipulation the String as the Gates increaseMaking of String from animal skin: Even though all kinds of strings are used today, the elderly used to make string from the skin of animals which they would kill as they were herding the cattle, or even from cattle and sheep skinGames played around the fire in the evenings during story telling time by the Grandfathers and Grandmothers



  • SOME OF THE RESULTS OF THE STUDIES ON INDIGENOUS GAMESMathematical knowledge from the analysis of indigenous gamesPerformance in specific mathematical concepts e.g. probability MorubaSocio-cultural interactions in the mathematics classroom during the play of gamesAcknowledgement and empowerment of learners through the use of indigenous gamesRelations between indigenous games and mathematics classroom activitiesKnowledge of games by the elders and elderly and knowledge holders and the implications for mathematics educationHistory and Transportation of indigenous games and the impact of globalizationWritten records and verification processes of indigenous gamesSimilarities and Differences in indigenous games across different countriesResearch Methodologies and Analytical Frameworks that may be used in the studies on Indigenous Games

  • ROLE OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE HOLDERS (ELDERS) IN ETHNOMATHEMATICAL STUDIESTheir wealth of knowledge may be used to verify and correct the records that already exist, which at times may be incorrectThey must not only serve as our source of knowledge and research material, but should as many times as possible and as far as possible, allow their voices to be heardThey must be acknowledged correctly and appropriately (Contribution to making their knowledge eradicate their poverty)