Thaba Nchu IKS Documention Centre

Preserving Indigenous Knowledge in the Free State

The Free State province is playing its part in the preservation of our Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) with the collaboration of the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape, Limpopo and the North West province. The writer attended the launch of an IKS Documentaion Centre in Thaba Nchu.

It was a cold and windy day full of nostalgia when the Barolong reminisced about leading the Batswana and Basotho people in the Free State, with the cataloguing and launch of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre in Thaba Nchu. They were in the forefront once more… as they were in 1833 when they arrived in this place later named Thaba Nchu by Kgosi Moroka I.

Rre Maleho Kgoronyane, deputy chairperson of the Barolong baa Seleka Traditional Council, who gave a brief background of Thaba Nchu and Barolong baa Seleka under Kgosi Moroka I, cried foul about the injustice of the loss of their land in the past. Thaba Nchu land is now a quarter of what it used to be.

“We humbly request the government of the day to weigh and consider the possibility and availability of restoring boundaries of Thaba Nchu to improve the economy of the district as a whole,” he said.

He reminded us that, “Barolong arrived in Thaba Nchu in 1833 led by Kgosi Moroka I. He was accompanied by the Wesleyan Missionaries. Two missionaries were very instrumental in assisting Kgosi Moroka I to find a place under the sun where the tribe could live in peace and harmony. He then gave the name Thaba Nchu because of the thick trees, bushes and shrubs which cover the whole mountain belonging to Morena Moshoeshoe I. He then sent the two missionaries to Morena Moshoeshoe I to negotiate the purchase of this beautiful territory. The missionaries helped Kgosi Moroka I with the signing of the documents which legitimised the ownership of this land as the property of Kgosi Moroka I”.

The Barolong Cultural village resounded with the folk songs sung by a group of retired teachers. The women also sang a Barolong anthem, Dumang Barolong. The anthem is not typical of music for such occasions, that moslty requires one to be serious and formal. It is full of humour but still with a strong message, “…botshabela, bophirima borwa, le bokone ba bina pina tse di bokang Modimo di re ‘Morena boloka setjhaba sa mofare wa rona, bana ba morafe o sa feleng’. The young stars also performed a number of pharatlhatlhe, a traditional Setswana dance following by ulutation from the audience.

Kgosigadi Gaongalelwe Moroka in her speech reminded us of the Setswana Proverb, susu ilela suswana, suswana a tle a go ilele… that means a parent must respect a child for a child.

The Director of Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) in the Department of Science and Technology, Carol van Wyk, told the audience about the importance of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems.

“In 2004 the government adopted the Indigenous Knowledge Systems policy in order to promote, protect and develop the Indigenous Knowledge Systems. This is because in the past, when you practise Indigenous Knowledge you were seen as a witchdoctor and you were not recognised. People from outside came to gain knowledge from you and wrote books without acknowledging you…,” she said.

The reason why the Department of Science and Technology (DST) commissioned the Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) to handle the IKS Document Centre project is because “the project is focusing on two themes, Indigenous Medicine and Indigenous Food. These two areas are at risk of being lost in most of our communities through biopiracy. A practice that means people coming to communities and taking information and publishing it without consent. [Senior citizens are passing on without leaving behind this wealth of information and] we want you to benefit from your own knowledge,” she concluded.

Within the DST there are three directorates, policy and legislation, knowledge development and knowledge management. These directorates are three pillars that are put in place to hold protect and manage the IKS for the benefit of the people.

In being the cogs of the machine, Matau Setshase and her team of women comprising Pulane Monyaki, Mathagaki Tsipane and Dieketseng Thekiso, held the knife at its sharp edge like their mothers and catalogued 32 of 45 villages that make up Thaba Nchu. The IKDC project which she co-ordinated began in April 2013 and was launched this year.

Matau and her team catalogued various Indigenous Knowledge (IK) holders across Thaba Nchu villages. They discovered 12 IK Holders with different areas of specialisation. Julia Molebane and Petrus Sebotsa stay in Zone 2. Julia is an IK Holder specialising in traditional food while Petrus specialises in indigenous farming practices. Malehloa Joyce Setlhare from Gladstone, Majale Alidah Segalo from Rakhoi, Thakane Maria Nthabi from Feloane and Mmapuleng Juliet Thabang from Merino are holders of traditional food and traditional food knowledge. Moselantja Annah Moatlhodi from Spizkop is also the holder of traditional food but she specialises with the brewing of traditional beer.

Motlhobongwa John Moeng from Tiger River, Thabo France Mokone from Rooibult and Buti Meshack Masiza from Spizkop are the IK Holders of traditional medicine while Thulo Tshehlo from Woodbridge II is the IK Holder who specialises in traditional arts and crafts.

We look forward to the IKSDC covering the entire Free State province and cataloguing our heritage comprehensively.