Kisii University’s move to start Centre for African Studies receives major boost

Participants follow proceedings during the Kisii University’s School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) Conference, which took place between October 5-7, 2021 in the university. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

When heritage is mentioned, many Africans think of a call to neglect modernism and embrace old-fashioned ways of doing things.

Last month, Kisii University hosted a three day conference to break down the jargon and call Africans back into embracing their culture and heritage for sustainable development towards the realization of Africa’s vision 2063.

The conference also charted a way forward on both the proposed Centre for African Studies and introduction of a PhD programme in Heritage Studies in the university.

The Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development Goals in Africa was planned by the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) at Kisii University, Kenya.

The conference featured an incredible group of keynote speakers who interrogated the minds of the audience, paving the way for the theme of the event.

Prof. Herman Kiriama was the Coordinator of the conference with keynote speakers being Prof. Abu Bakarr Bah, Prof. Anakalo Shitandi, Prof. Olusanya Faboyede, Prof. Mary Gitau, Prof. Hassan Omar Kaya and Dr. Margaret Barasa.

Prof. Shitandi, acting DVC Academics and Student Affairs, Researcher and Author said African heritage is priceless.

“We should all join hands in protecting it as the mother of our shared history,” he said.

Prof. Shitandi noted that heritage preservation is the sure way of keeping and passing on what we value to the other generations.

Prof. Abu Bakarr Bah of Northern Illinois University (NIU), USA, when he was presenting his paper during the SASS Conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

He observed that heritage is more than mere moments but a support of identity, memory and sense of place.

“It has been realized globally that explicit focus by heritage professionals on the role of SDGs to their work remains scanty and unevenly documented,” he noted.

He placed the burden of heritage preservation not only on the shoulders of UN but also on national and county governments, civil society and business sectors.

Prof. Shitandi who spoke on behalf of Vice Chancellor Prof John Akama noted that equality and inclusion towards sustainable development has been impeded by gender-based violence, non-inclusion of women and PWDs.

He championed for the embracing of heritage in a bid to eliminate these stumbling blocks.

“It is clear that cultural heritage is not renewable and cannot be reconstituted once it has been destroyed,” Prof Shitandi said.

“We’re merely the custodians of our cultural heritage and must endeavour to take and preserve it with all diversity for a diverse and more sustainable future for all.”

Dr. Barasa who is the Dean SASS, interrogated the audience on whether we really have heritage in Africa, if it is a knowledge system and who owns it.

Prof. Bah, a Professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University (NIU), USA, noted that the conference was a follow-up of 2019’s Indigenous Language System’s conference.

Prof. Bah gave a keynote address on where to get indigenous knowledge and how to apply it in enhancing human development towards achieving Africa’s SDGs.

He said there was knowledge in every culture and among every group of people.

Prof. Anakalo Shitandi, acting DVC Academics and Student Affairs, Kisii University, presenting his paper during the SASS Conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

“This should be correctly documented and disseminated,” Prof Bah noted.

“Our heritage should be widely present in all mainstream sources of development.”

He said when Africans think of knowledge and development, they should think of their own experiences.

He noted that, “Indigenous knowledge is based on practice, built on experience and professional practice.”

The scholar juxtaposed indigenous knowledge with socio-scientific knowledge, noting that while indigenous knowledge revolves around skills acquisition (how to do something), socio-scientific knowledge bends towards critical thinking, sifting truth from lies and differentiating facts from opinions.

He pointed out that there’s a close relation between knowledge and power.

“Building partnerships with grassroots players such as artisans, is a good avenue for enhancing human development by use of indigenous languages and knowledge,” he said.

Prof. Bah noted that economic partnerships with such people will enhance the circulation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge through artifacts and knowledge on how they are made.

He said effort should be made through academic centres as community spaces.

“Think of the academic centre as a community space instead of a bureaucratic institution,” Prof. Bah said.

“This will provide a space where indigenous languages and knowledge is taught in a different way, knowledge assessment done and graduation requirements determined.”

He also said language should be documented.

Kisii University choir entertaining guests during the conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

Pointing out on the scarcity of written knowledge on indigenous languages, he urged that the knowledge itself rather than the ways of acquiring it should be documented.

“We must think of the right forms of publication,” he said.

Prof. Bah singled out the suitability of a journal; with sections for scholars, artists, multimedia and photos, recipes, manuals and experts’ knowledge on modes of skills acquisition.

He endorsed such a journal as a fully diverse one, with enough quality, speaking to the heart of the learner in an indigenous language.

Prof. Bah said different authors should be incorporated in it’s production and publishing.

“The point is to emphasize the need to get out of the box and challenge the organization of indigenous language,” he said.

“I am hopeful that this vision of indigenous knowledge in Kisii University will be an important path in reconstitution of knowledge production.

In a recap address, Dr Barasa touched on the value of diversity, how language is related to power and why the centre should be regarded as a community space for indigenous knowledge acquisition and solving daily life’s problems.

Kisii University choir treated the audience to a choice of hand-picked, heritage-based presentations, putting the speeches into context while calling for more.

Prof. Olusanya Faboyede, a Historian from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko: Ondo State, Nigeria, gave a virtual keynote address and noted that Africa has not been keen enough to store heritage symbols such as artifacts.

“Africa may not witness rapid growth and development if the elite won’t act as missionaries and continue to engage in Africa’s Heritage and Culture,” Prof Olusanya opined.

He linked the realization of SDGs to realization of Africa’s Vision 2063.

“Truth and justice will only be done through restitution of Africa’s heritage,” he said.

Prof. Joseph Mailutha, DVC Administration, Planning and Fincance, Kisii University, receiving a gift during the conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

On the role of research on indigenous people’s indigenous foods for better health, Prof. Shitandi said there was need for research on indigenous foods among indigenous people.

While presenting his paper, Prof. Shitandi said this was a good niche that helps communities live healthy lives.

“Rural people own great knowledge on ILs and their land but poverty, discrimination and marginalization hinder them from accessing scientific knowledge,” Analo said.

He said that with indigenous foods being available locally, many people rely on them and research on their suitability, documentation of food systems migration and scientific nutrient analysis would be good research niches for Kisii University.

This, he said, would address indigenous people’s food security and enhance better health.

Prof. Kaya of University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Durban, South Africa virtually gave a thoughtful presentation about the role of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) as a resource for localization of SDGs in Africa.

He said the history of slavery and colonization has displaced and marginalized indigenous languages.

Prof. Kaya said that to have everyone rally behind realization of Africa’s SDGs, indigenous languages are the best medium.

He said that IKS are dynamic, adaptable and specific to specific groups of people.

“They help cultural communities to examine their history, tradition and become authentic expressions of themselves,” Prof Kaya said.

He said that building on the indigenous is not necessarily what is traditional but what is an authentic expression of ourselves as Africans.

He said IKS are good instruments of mobilizing marginalized social groups such as women, youth and PWDs into working towards realization of Africa’s SDGs.

He quoted author Ngugi wa Thiong’o who said, “the role of African indigenous languages in social development process must include importance of culture.”

He was glad that Kisii University is partnering with other institutions to digitize IKS.

Dr. Margaret Barasa, Dean School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) (speaking) and Dr. Peter Gutwa Oino, CoD in the Department of Sociology, and a student from the Department of Sociology during the presentation of gifts to the keynote speakers. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

“This will help Africans use indigenous languages as wealth creation resources,” he said.

In Rwanda, the Umuganda Philosophy is used to observe environment conservation while in Malawi, development manuals and policies have been translated into local languages and grassroots people can understand them fully.

Prof. Mary Gitau of Clarke University, USA, said Indigenous Languages (ILs) can be suitably used to hold hard conversations and solve Kenya’s conflicts in a better way.

In her virtual address, Prof Gitau noted that cattle rustling, electoral politics and fight for local resources are some drivers of conflict in Kenya.

She exemplified how Kenyans can use ILs to solve the country’s peace problems.

“By using ILs in solving conflicts, we are trying to bring people together who, in the first-place, don’t want to see each other,” Prof Gitau said.

She noted that ILs can be used to call disputing parties onto the table, engage in deep conversations, allow everyone pour out their emotions and find amicable solutions.

Prof Gitau championed for the Ubuntu Philosophy which, without needing people to forget their social differences and become similar, urges them to embrace consensus through dialogue.

This was the second International Conference on Heritage and SDGs towards achieving vision 2063.

Related: Kisii University to host Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development Goals in Africa

MORE PHOTOS

Prof. Herman Kiriama doing a recap during the conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Prof. Edmund Were, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, History and Peace Studies introducing a guest speaker during the conference. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Guests and other participants pose for a group photo after the three day conference. PHOTO/Courtesy.
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Mr. Makau holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics, Media & Communication from Moi University, Kenya. He is a Columnist and Editor with Scholar Media Africa, with a keen interest in Education, Health, Climate Change, and Literature. His contact: b.makau@scholarmedia.africa.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Culture and Heritage preservation is an important way to restore and tell Africa’s story about our history. Kisii University has been keen enough in leading the way.

    • Welcome Lucy. You can subscribe for such stories and more. The Scholar Media Africa is determined to bring you (our reader) stories that will have a huge positive impact to our people. Thanks for trusting us.

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