Monday 4 May 2015

ARROWSA 1st quarterly meeting
10 April
Bergtheil Museum

Research report by Dr Lauren Dyll-Myklebust

Journal publications

1)      Mary Lange and Dr Lauren Dyll-Myklebust have submitted a paper that draws on the Biesje Poort rock engraving project:

“Spirituality, shifting identities and social change: cases from the Kalahari landscape” to the journal HTS Theological Studies 71(1).

Photo by Mary E Lange

Storytelling, art and craft can be considered aesthetic expressions of identities. Kalahari identities are not fixed, but fluid. Research with present day Kalahari peoples regarding their artistic expression and places where it has been and is still practised highlights that these expressions are informed by spirituality. This paper explores this idea via two Kalahari case studies; Water Stories recorded in the Upington, Kakamas area as well as research on a specific rock engraving site at Biesje Poort near Kakamas. The importance of the Kalahari people’s spiritual beliefs as reflected in these case studies, and its significance regarding their identities and influence on social change projects is discussed. The paper thus highlights ways in which spirituality can be considered in relation to social change projects that are characterised by partnerships between different groups of people and that highlight art and/or storytelling as keys to the people’s spirituality.

2)      Lauren and Prof Keyan Tomaselli have submitted a paper that draws on the Biesje Poort rock engraving project and Engraved Landscape (Lange et al, 2013)

“Public self-expression: Decolonising the Researcher-Researched Relationship” to Communicatio (ed. Mariekie Burger).

 Photo by Roger C Fisher

Our objective is to make a case for research participants (normally known as ‘informants’, ‘subjects’, ‘objects’, ‘sources’ etc.) to be included in certain kinds of studies as co-authors and co-researchers in  a new, much less regulated methodological environment. In this sense they act like prodsumers as they are both significantly contributing to, and are users (consumers) of, the research done. Self-narrative is examined from the perspectives of both the researchers and the researched. Our case study is an illustrated book, Engraved Landscape: Biesje Poort Many Voices (Lange et al., 2013), a postmodern, indigene-led, visual archaeology published in three languages, and the methodology used in its creation. Just as governments sought to control who could broadcast under what conditions in the unregulated early 20th Century radio environment, so have academic auditors similarly responded to regulate the cacophony that threatens when research is decolonised as is done in Engraved Landscape. This paper draws on long-term lived field research amongst San Bushman communities in southern Africa. Both crystal radio and talk by Bushmen have been subjected to regulation, thus offering the basis of the analytical comparison. Where the Bushmen, without access to social media, rigorously manage their media exposure and have high social expectation of research done on, with or for them, ordinary hyper-individuated individuals are argued to have much lower expectations.

Conference Presentations
Two papers related to ARROWSA activities will be presented at the:

International Conference on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental Ethics: Implications for Peace-building and Sustainable Development, 28-30 April 2015, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

By Mary and Luthando Ngema

Photo by Mary E Lange

The challenges of a participatory communication approach in marketing natural and cultural heritage educational programmes to schools by a non-profit organisation, ARROWSA, from 2006 to 2015 are investigated in this paper. These challenges are particularly due to integrating a participatory communication approach with government and other non-profit organisation stakeholders.  Educational programmes linked to the Palmiet Nature Reserve and Bergtheil Museum, Westville, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, serve as a case study. ARROWSA promotes arts, culture and heritage peace projects as educational programmes that are set within the organisation’s objectives; which are to promote reconciliation between different races, cultures and religions as well as with the environment. The programmes, through inclusive marketing, seek to readdress the exclusion of Durban city’s natural and cultural heritage sites from access to the majority of Durban learners in Apartheid times specifically those living in townships and residue related challenges. ARROWSA, in working at the Palmiet Nature Reserve and the Bergtheil Museum further aims to impact the future positively through the education of children and youth on natural and cultural heritage. The educational programmes thus highlight the need for fauna and flora diversity, the common needs for survival of all people and the contrast between archaeological and environmental evidence of sustainable living in the past compared to present day practises. This research highlights challenges that occur for interpretation and marketing of the educational programmes to the diverse schools in and around Durban. These challenges include factors such as socio-economic inequity, power relations, travel logistics, attention to spirituality and the inclusion of indigenous languages. Results that are critiqued in the paper are based on qualitative action research approach that includes face-to-face interviews supported by general survey questionnaires. The research is conducted by the authors as ARROWSA in affiliation with the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), University of KwaZulu-Natal. The paper further includes recommendations that can be implemented within an action research approach with a view to continuous reassessment.

2)      Trusting the Indigenous:  Critical Indigenous Qualitative Methodologies
By Lauren and Keyan Tomaselli

Photo by Mary E Lange

Research is often conducted within an othering relationship that locates the researcher as all-knowing and the (indigenous) researched as not-knowing. This approach seemingly disregards that fact that it is the indigenous people’s opinions that are captured in data collection. The indigenous know detail - if not theory or method.

Our work amongst the indigenous of the Kalahari, whom we have recognised are our research participants, and at times co-researchers, reveals that they  have agency, teaching often clueless academics about themselves and their situations. It is during such encounters that the indigenous establish the parameters of the interaction.  The researchers start to get the uncomfortable impression that their textbooks are actually a hindrance.

This paper uses the above as a starting point to critically examine:

  • The nature of the encounter in research and Self/Other ethics and method

  • The value of narrative in research approaches that challenge  the neoliberal logic of safe ivory towers; and introduces the idea of

  • Critical Indigenous Qualitative Research along with interpretive research practices that aim to be ethical, transformative, participatory, and committed to dialogue; and of

  • Decolonising research practices thus popularising accessible writing styles.

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