A group of 27 university students from Malaysia interacted with staff and students from UKZN’s Westville campus as part of a cultural exchange programme hosted by the Malaysia-Durban Tamil Socio-Cultural Organisation. The students visited different places in Durban and interacted with diverse groups of people as part of the interdisciplinary programme.
Mr Sbusiso Hlongwa, School Liaisons Officer, provided an overview of UKZN’s academic programmes and its status as a research-led Institution. Dr Mayashree Chinsamy, Research Manager at the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) – National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS), commented on the importance of developing IKS to address current global challenges, including the increasing burden on public healthcare and food insecurity.
Chinsamy said, ‘IKS as community-based knowledge systems, are the long-standing traditions and practices of specific local communities which encompass the skills, innovations, beliefs, experiences and insights of the people in their specific cultural and ecosystems, accumulated over years and applied in different social practices. They are traditionally transmitted orally, from one generation to the other, using local or indigenous languages. Indigenous knowledge systems, including worldviews, ways of knowing and value systems, represent the social capital of local communities.’ She highlighted that the CIKS was established in 2014 as one of the strategic instruments of implementing the National IKS Policy (2004) in knowledge generation, human capital development and community engagement in the field of IKS.
Professor Suria Govender, former lecturer and alumnus of UKZN, thanked the Corporate Relations Division for inviting the Surialanga Dance Company to take part in the programme. The company focuses on tri-culturalism and cultural transformation. Govender taught the students her Asimbonanga uMandela thina, lapho ekhona, lapho ehleli khona Hindu-inspired dance routine that was performed at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and sung by Johnny Clegg. ‘You came at an auspicious time with the recent passing of Johnny Clegg who played a major role in the country’s liberation,’ she said. Govender demonstrated the routine with dance partner Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, while translating the lyrics of the song. ‘When we first performed this Indian dance with Ndebele, as a Black man, critics were upset at the fusion of traditional Indian and African dance moves. But my dance company is about cultural transformation and that is what South Africa stands for,’ she said.
The students were taken on a tour of the campus and shown the University’s library, lecture theatres and the Hindu temple. Malaysian student, Mr Sundaresan Nadaraji was amazed by the dance routine. ‘This song gave me goosebumps because of its lyrics and I was shocked at how the African guy was able to dance this Indian routine so well! I am thankful for this experience and I hope to implement a culture back home where we are proud of our own heritage.’
UKZN students, Mr Siphiwe Dlomo and Mr Nande Baleki also enjoyed the experience. They noted that the event enabled them to visit places within the University that they did not know existed, like the IKS centre and the Hindu Temple.
Words: Hlengiwe Precious Khwela
Photograph: Itumeleng Masa