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Indigenous knowledge systems of the Ndau people of Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe: a case study of Bota Reshupa.

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Framed from postcolonial and cultural hermeneutics perspectives, this study employs the phenomenological method in conjunction with historical and sociological approaches to investigate the efficacy of IKS of the Ndau of Manicaland province in Zimbabwe. The study is premised on the argument that western knowledge has been accepted as normative despite the existence of other epistemologies worldwide. Using bota reshupa [Ndau herbal porridge] as a case study, the thesis argues that the production of knowledge is not an act of monopolizing a part of humanity but rather, that ownership thereof is the prerogative of every person and every community. Communities generate knowledge that is context-specific but at the same time knowledge can be beneficial to all of humanity. The thesis argued that while it is important to acknowledge power relations in the production of knowledge, it is equally significant to accept that we are living in a poly-epistemic world composed of various knowledges that complement each other. The research findings showed that IKS are used for a variety of reasons. Bota reshupa serves as the primary health care of the Ndau, including defining their identity, rites of passage and expression of their sense of cultural beauty (aesthetics). It was found that shupa serves the socio-cultural as well as the religious spheres of the Ndau. It was also made clear that the romanticising of IKS can be risky. Using cultural hermeneutics as a complementary theory to the postcolonial paradigm, bota reshupa was found to contain some harmful elements such as kuhaza [ excessive nose and mouth bleeding] which affected Ndau males who consumed shupa (a shortened way of saying bota reshupa). Shupa taboos are very strict and any violations of the taboos may result in death if remedial measures are not expeditiously implemented. The thesis argued that despite the negative effects of kuhaza (which can be (re)defined and (re)negotiated), shupa remained and still remains a resource for the Ndau. The practice also demonstrated the centrality and agency of the Ndau women in matters of their health, identity as well as their culture and situation. It was found that Ndau women were the custodians of shupa. They prepared and administered it, thereby women agency. However, using iv cultural hermeneutics lens, it was found that although Ndau women were the custodians of the practice, the real owners of culture are Ndau males. The need for mainstreaming IKS was also emphasised. The need to research, document and preserve IKS, especially in Zimbabwe, was emphasised throughout the thesis. The study called for more in-depth research on IKS, particularly the scientific research on shupa to determine its pharmaceutical compounds, so that Zimbabweans could holistically benefit from shupa. The thesis also called for the creation of frameworks that would enable adequate funding into research on IKS in general and IKS curricula in particular in Zimbabwe.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.