African Indigenous Knowledge on the Cloud: The Role of Libraries, Archives, and Museums

African Indigenous Knowledge on the Cloud: The Role of Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Madireng Monyela
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7024-4.ch012
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Indigenous knowledge is knowledge that people have of their local environment acquired through the accumulation of experiences, informal experiments, and observation rooted in particular places and practised as culture. This kind of knowledge is not documented as it is tacit and transferred though oral tradition. Being largely uncodified, it is constantly changing and forgotten as people adapt to changing circumstances due to beliefs, intercultural settings, and colonisation. Therefore, it faces a danger of fading. Libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) should be proactive in their approach and should ensure that indigenous knowledge, although based on orality and oral traditions, should be managed and preserved just like other documentary materials that are grounded in western codified knowledge schemes and create sustainable strategies to preserve it for future use.
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Indigenous knowledge (IK) is described as knowledge that ordinary people have of their local environment acquired through the accumulation of experiences, informal experiments and observations, rooted in particular places and practised as culture (Morris, 2010; Rajasekaran, 1993; Masango, 2010). This knowledge is informal and it is not codified and is transmitted orally in an informal manner, outside the ritual context, and much of it is experiential knowledge based on personal experiences. Being largely uncodified it is constantly forgotten and changing, as people adapt to changing circumstances (Morris, 2010). Therefore, LAM as the custodians of knowledge should preserve and disseminate this IK on the cloud using available technologies such as blogs, social networking websites, e-commerce, wikis, social cataloguing, streaming videos and e-libraries to name but a few for future use. According to Fernandez (1994) indigenous knowledge is greatly affected by gender stratification as viewed by the society. Women have much more knowledge of soil classification for cultivation, hut construction and pottery, while men have more knowledge on livestock management. According to Maluleka (2017) Africans has indigenous institutions to deal with social, spiritual, education, political, legal, and psychological and health problems. Legal institutions dealt with disputes that arose in any family or society. Ayittey (2006) indicated three branches within the legal institutions as natural, contractual, statutory, and customary laws. Natural law constitutes the body of rules people of a particular society must follow in order to live and work in peace. First, they must avoid physical harm or damage to another’s work or property such as land, houses, livestock and other belongings. Second, they must honour their obligations or contracts with others, and, third, they should compensate those on whom they inflict harm and whose property they damage. Contractual law on the other hand deals with agreements, informal or formal, mostly in the presence of a witness or none. For example, the parent may owe another parent and agree that they may marry their daughter as a form of payment. Statutory laws are instigated by the kings and chiefs and enforced by the guards of the kings. Those guards typically have a monopoly over the use of force or the weapons required for redressing injustices. Customary laws are not commands or legislated rules. They are conventions and enforceable rules that have emerged and are respected spontaneously, without formal agreement, among people as they go about their daily business and try to solve the problems that occasionally arise in it without upsetting the patterns (Ayittey, 2006).

One common customary law that still exists among tribes and ethnic groups is customary marriage. Most customary marriages go through a number of stages, and this varies from community to community. In all of them, there must be the introduction stage or declaration of intention to marry the bride by the intending groom where specific family members like aunts and uncles are sent to the prospective bride’s home. After this generally, a bride price is paid in cows and provision of gifts and drinks are made, as soon as confirmation has been done. Then, the ceremonial and public celebration is done they then slaughter a cow and goat at the bride’s home and make a traditional beer and perform rituals to join the two families. This involves the invitation of friends, extended families and people from the community and neighbouring villages to eat, drink and to wish luck to the newly married couple. Each stage in the customary marriage involves the presentation of drinks, and gift items to the bride’s and groom’s people. However in other traditions the gifts are presented only to the bride’s family. A customary marriage celebration terminates here and goes no further. It is potentially polygamous and the man is allowed to marry as many wives as he desires by custom. However the first wife must be consulted before polygamy takes place. Here, the rights, liabilities and obligations of the spouses are determined by customary law with the attendant submission of the female.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Indigenous Knowledge: Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of regional, indigenous, or local communities.

Resource Description Framework: A standard model for data interchange on the web, using simple Subject-Predicate-Object (also called triple) statements.

Preservation: The process of working to protect something valuable so that it is not damaged or destroyed.

Cataloguing: The process of creating metadata representing information resources, such as books, sound recordings, moving image etc.

Linked Data: A set of techniques that represents and connects structured data such as metadata or catalogue data using links that connects on the web.

Documentation: The process of classifying and annotating texts, photographs, etc.

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