DHASA2017 – Abstract

Can Digital Approaches Serve as Catalyst for Harvesting Indigenous Knowledge?

Alexander, Josephine Olufunmilayo
University of South Africa

At the First Digital Humanities Workshop held at North West University, Potchefstroom in 2015, illuminating accounts were given of the work done in Europe and elsewhere in the digital humanities field. The potential for reinventing the way we conduct research in the humanities and social sciences, through such interdisciplinary approaches, became clear. This raised the possibility of how digital humanities can advance the cause of intellectualizing African indigenous knowledge. In particular, how might digital humanities harvest the knowledge embedded in indigenous systems and traditional practices which are being eroded because of their non-transmission from one generation to another? This paper is also conceived against the background of the current debate on decolonising and Africanising education. Using the language and cultural traditional practices of the Owé people of Nigeria as a springboard, I attempt to explore the question, to provoke debate and to guide future research that could both benefit the Owé community and advance the cause of scholarship in the digital humanities field in an African context. The paper starts with an exploration of digital humanities and digital approaches. This is followed by an exposition of Owé language and the cultural and traditional practices embedded in it. Thereafter, an attempt is made to conceptualise how the approaches could serve as restorative agents for documenting, maintaining and preserving Owé indigenous knowledge systems and by extension other endangered African languages. The paper concludes by highlighting the scholarly and intellectual benefits of harnessing indigenous knowledge through the interrogation of digital approaches.