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TAKI (article first published : 2004-04-25)

The Ancient Knowledge Initiative (TAKI), which collects, preserves and disseminates indigenous wisdom and heritage, is one of 23 projects supported by the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT), which receives funds from Trust founding partner Nedbank.

Money donated to ACT is dependent on turnover by Nedbank clients: the more Nedbank Arts clients use their Nedbank Arts affinity accounts, the more the trust receives.

TAKI is dedicated to safeguarding the ancient cultural history, traditions, legends, dances, and ethno-botanical and artistic knowledge of South Africa's indigenous people. Furthermore, TAKI creates jobs and promotes cultural diversity, awareness and understanding - all key focus areas for ACT, which emphasises the sustainable development and growth of the arts, culture and heritage.

The work at TAKI takes place in four integrated steps. First, elderly people with knowledge of oral history are identified. Second, field workers and translators are deployed to record, film and transcribe this knowledge. Third, the knowledge is accumulated, examined and compiled in various media - booklet form, video material and tape recordings - and returned to the community from whence it was sourced. Fourth, the booklets, videos and recordings are distributed to schools, the general public and the media.

The benefits of the Initiative reverberate from communities to the country as a whole, beginning with the oral story tellers, each of whom is paid per story. Work is generated for field workers, interpreters and transcribers. Valuably, the country's repository of indigenous knowledge and heritage is enlarged.

Based as it is in KwaZulu Natal, TAKI has made remarkable findings.

A cave has been discovered in the Busangathi area in the north, containing pierced grinding stones, as well as late white paintings, only the second such find in the province. A plant has been identified that shows the direction of east to west, as well as the approximate time of day, even in the thickest mist. The plant was used in the old days as a direction finder.

In the Didima area, the discovery of a healer, who still remembers the ancient medicine plants her grandmother used. On a field trip 14 new medicine plants were found.

Two painted shelters were found in the Didima area, both previously unrecorded. One has a panel of Bushman paintings measuring 5m x 2m and in the other were found an abundance of tools, as well as a battle scene of Bushmen fighting, both in good states of preservation.

The Durban North area has yielded the finding of what TAKI's Isolde Mellet-Pocock describes as a wonderful selection of Zulu - or possibly AmaHlubi - ancient stories and beautiful lullabies in Zulu.

To date, eight elderly, knowledgeable people have been interviewed in the Kamberg area, from whom 37 stories have been collected and transcribed. One fieldworker is at work in each of the following areas: Kamberg, the Reichenau, Durban North, Verulam and Didima, where there is also a translator.

With the funding of the Art and Culture Trust, storyteller Happiness Zanisa Msomiwe has been employed in a programme fwhere she will go to schools (at their invitation) to teach Grade Ones, Twos, Threes and Fours stories simple songs, games and lullabies.

TAKI is collecting stories from Rainmakers, heaven herds and lightning fighters and welcomes any old medicinal plant remedies, old games, songs, myths and legends from all cultures, dances and ceremonies, be they Sotho, Amazizi, Afrikaans (Boereraad we think was collected from the Bushmen).

More information from Yolande Korsten (yolande@shadowrain.co.za) on 012 661 7485 or 083 453 9616.




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