If you had a look at my last post, on the books I have read and reviewed in 2020 you may or may not have observed a pattern, which is that I probably don’t read non-fiction books. I am not likely to read biographies or even watch those based-on-true-stories movies, and some of those self-help motivational book feel a bit like a scam, someone whose claim to success is from telling others how to be successful…
Once, I made an errant remark about how I felt some life coaches, motivational speakers, church pastors, therapists and con man, were cut from the same cloth and just went to different tailors. I got my ear chewed off by a random stranger from the internet defending their pastor…
Small wonder we have lost a great deal of traditional knowledge people in their religious zeal have somehow managed to equate tradition with evil, inferiority and backwardness, it’s something rarely tabled in a professional space. Maybe that’s why we aren’t prospering, threw away the baby with the bath water.
I read an academic paper by Alex Magaisa Knowledge and Power: Law, Politics and Socio-cultural Perspectives on the Protection of Traditional Medical Knowledge Systems in Zimbabwe in which he aimed to explore the protection of traditional medical knowledge systems (TMK) through a combination of legal, political and socio-historical perspectives.
Traditional Medical Knowledge Systems
While the article uses field research carried out in Zimbabwe between June 2001 and June 2003 the arguments presented can be applied to Sub-Saharan Africa jurisdictions with similar characteristics.
I found this paper fascinating especially in light of the race for a cure for COVID with pharmaceutical companies patenting cures and remedies some which are derived from traditional knowledge systems others simply classified as a home remedy without any attribution to the system that has had this knowledge passed from generation to generation.
The article cited a couple of examples where pharmaceuticals reaped benefits of traditional cure such as the San people of Southern Africa who used Hoodia Gordoni plant as an appetite depressant which was later used to create a drug to help fight obesity, whose rights were owned by Pfizer at time of article publication. After a legal battle it was eventually ruled that the San Community were entitled to some benefits.
Not having documented evidence of traditional knowledge seems to be argument used in the marginalisation of traditional knowledge… if something is not written down apparently it does not exist.
Shifting of TKS in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe shifted from a precolonial period (before1890) where Traditional Knowledge Systems were revered with its practitioners held in high regard, to a colonial period (1890-1980) where TKS was marginalised with the introduction of Western Knowledge System alongside missionaries, Christianity, education and western medicine used to demonstrate superiority of western civilisation.
The post colonial phase (1980-) which are currently in has seen an attempt at correction from the colonial period, at independence Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association was formed and in 1981 Traditional Medical Practitioners Act was passed which established the setting up of a council to oversee the registration and practice of indigenous medicine in Zimbabwe, but over the years this has largely been ineffective in carrying out its lofty resolutions.
Interestingly the internet went crazy in the past week over a statue of the Mbuya Nehanda’s spirit medium, who was executed in 1898. Over a century later and we still struggle to reconnect with our past, I have seen some refer to the statue as idolatry while others argue over its.. inaccuracy.
The colonial period did a number on us, taught us someone else’s version of our history and civilisation, we don’t even really know who are, so much knowledge lost because ours wasnt written down.
And that is why I write
You can download the paper via button below: