The Minister of Science and Technology, Honourable Naledi Pandor MP, officially opened the 4th Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Interface Conference, which took place for the first time at the University of Venda Auditorium on Saturday, 03 December 2016. The conference was held under the theme, “Indigenous knowledge to co-exist in public without duress”.

Above: Minister of Science and Technology, Honourable Naledi Pandor, MP

The IKS Interface Conference was preceded by a Gala Dinner which took place on the eve of the official opening on 02 December 2016. During the gala dinner, Minister Naledi Pandor indicated that the conference aimed at igniting conversations about the future of indigenous knowledge and creating space for dialogue that seeks to generate new knowledge and train new cohorts of researchers.

Above: Thovhele Ratshibvumo 11 Rambuda

Khosikhulu Toni Mphephu Ramabulana was represented by Thovhele Ratshibvumo 11 Rambuda who is also a Univen Law student. Thovhele Rambuda encouraged the University of Venda to continue teaching Indigenous languages in order to preserve the knowledge which is disappearing. The four-day conference afforded an opportunity for researchers, indigenous knowledge holders, healers and students to discuss progress made and challenges experienced and, most importantly, share best practices. When officially opening the conference, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, challenged the 2016 Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Interface Conference delegates to discuss the question on how technological development should take into account the many different viewpoints on science and collective learning. “A technology of humility approach is similar to a sustainable development approach to emerging technologies. It’s an approach to take to indigenous knowledge,” said Minister Pandor. She further indicated that Indigenous knowledge refers to local knowledge that has been passed on orally from generation to generation. Minister Pandor explained that a “technology of humility” approach asked who would benefit and who might be hurt. This approach is opposed to technologies of hubris, the current dominant mode of scientific thinking, a command-andcontrol approach to scientific innovation.The Minister told the audience that South Africa’s policy on IKS adopted in 2004, after which an office (NIKSO) was established to protect, develop and manage indigenous knowledge systems, has been challenged as Western and in need of decolonisation. The Minister highlighted during the opening that the main challenge is that we focus on the commercialisation of indigenous knowledge rather than on a better understanding of indigenous knowledge itself. While wealth creation was essential to redressing historical injustices, the Minister said indigenous knowledge was not only useful in creating value, but was also a way of being, thinking and feeling. “There are those who criticise our IKS policy as simply an offshoot of our pursuit of a knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is Western knowledge, indigenous knowledge is African knowledge and that replicates the subordination of the rest to the west, the oppression of African societies by the West,” said Minister Pandor. The conference is an opportunity for a critical engagement with the current policy on indigenous knowledge in South Africa. “How can we bring indigenous knowledge and science together better?” asked Minister Pandor.

Above: Prof Shiv Visvanathan

In his message of support in line with the conference’s theme, Prof. Shiv Visvanathan, an Indian social scientist best known for his contributions todeveloping the field of science and technology studies, said that as South Africa had fought apartheid, the country now needed to fight the more insidious apartheid of knowledges. “As a people, we know that no community is complete without the other. No society is complete in itself. The other opens us, enlarges us; without the otherness of the other, the self is incomplete and even vulnerable. What is true of society is true of knowledge,” said the Professor Shiv Visvanathan from OP Jindal Global University in New Delhi. He said there were no lesser forms of knowledge, only a common in which each kind of knowledge had its place. There was no failed society or failed knowledge which deserved to be eliminated. He called for society to draw together all areas of knowledge so that all existing kinds of knowledge could be used for the benefit of humanity. He invited everyone to join in “a festival of humble knowledges”, with ethics a part of science, no culture “museumised”, and technology not subject to cost-benefit analyses.

Above: Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Venda, Prof Peter Mbati

The University of Venda’s Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Peter Mbati, said there was an increasing realisation among researchers, developmental agencies, policy makers and academics, among others, that African indigenous knowledge was an under-used resource in Africa’s developmental process. Prof Mbati said learning from what local communities already knew created an understanding of local conditions, and provided an important context for activities designed to help them. He added that the University of Venda is one ofthe four institutions offering Bachelor of Arts in IKS and the University is looking forward to seeing the first cohort of students with a bachelors’ degree in IKS graduate next year.

Above: MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Seaparo Sekoati

Speaking on behalf of the Premier, Limpopo’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Seaparo Sekoati, said the provincial government believed that the conference would have tangible outcomes to improve the socio-economic conditions of people in the province, especially those in very rural areas.

Above: Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO of the National Research Foundation

Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF), spoke on the role and contribution that the NRF is making to support and promotion of the IKS. Dr Qhobela said that the NRF is tasked with managing and supporting knowledge production and human capacity development in all fields of science and knowledge which include the IKS. “The highlighting of IKS in our statutory mandate was and has been the recognition and unique role and potential that IKS has in the development of our country”, said Qhobela. He added that the NRF’s role has continued to facilitate and support researchers and knowledge holders in the systematic investigation and development of IKS. During the conference researchers, students and knowledge holders presented their work, discussed the challenges they had experienced and, most importantly, shared best practices with others in IKS fields. Topics addressed during the conference included the development of herbal formulations to treat diseases such as HIV, sexually transmitted infections, cancers and hypertension. There were also presentations on the use of medicinal plants in healthcare and beauty among Xhosa people, and the use of IKS to conserve soil and water, and improve crop yields in spite of the current erratic rainfall. The 4th Indigenous Knowledge Systems Interface Conference was organised by the National Department of Science and Technology in collaboration with the University of Venda, UNISA and the National Research Foundation.

Above: Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, DST’s Deputy Director-General: Research Development and Support

DST’s Deputy Director-General: Research Development and Support, Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde was the master of ceremonies during the official opening of the conference on Saturday.Above: Nyavhumbwawadagaila Cultural group performing Malende dance

Issued by: Department of Communications and Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: 015 962 8525
Date: 07 December 2016

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