Indigenous culture as a knowledge system

  • Hester du Plessis Technikon Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Gauhar Raza National Institute of Science, Technology and Development, New Delhi, India
Keywords: Indigenous culture, indigenous knowledge system (IKS), cultural identity, design – traditional


Indigenous culture as a knowledge system [English]

Complex concepts such as cultural identity, gender issues and the effects of colonialism, politics, and power structures on societies form part of the debate around indigenous culture as a knowledge system. This article makes a contribution to the debate by addressing cultural issues encountered during a cross-cultural research project based in India and South Africa. The authors reflected on some of the conceptual issues they grappled with during their research. The project involved the documentation, study and understanding of the extent in which indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) and modern technologies were utilised in the traditional manufacturing processes of artisans in general and potters in particular. The roles and functions of IKS as used during the production of artefacts were included in the study. This perspective was coupled with a study on the artisans' attitude towards and understanding of science (PAUS) while conducting their traditional technological processes. The combined approach provided a method that allowed researchers to develop interventions that capitalised on existing skills, practices and social relationships rather than undermining them, thus contributing to their sustainability. The project, at the same time, focussed on redefining the characteristics of “knowing” (of knowledge) as not just a mere contemplative gaze, but also as a practical activity. By focusing on artisans, the question of knowledge was placed in the two spheres of knowledge production: “theory” (epistemology) and “practice”. This approach attempted to address and discuss some academic notions based on culture; including a variety of aspects that broadly constitute the “concept” of culture. As these notions continuously alter with changing academic insights they are constantly re-defined by academics and researchers.

Key Words: Indigenous culture, indigenous knowledge system (IKS), cultural identity, design – traditional

Tydskrif vir letterkunde Vol. 41(2) 2004: 85-98

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-9070
print ISSN: 0041-476X