Free State Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC)

Indigenous Knowledge Act awareness session conducted by the Department of Science and Innovation in collaboration with the Free State IKSDC in Clarens, Free State. About 70 Indigenous Knowledge holders attended the session, coming as far as Bethlehem, Qwaqwa and Fouriesburg. The gathering took place on the 11th of September 2019.

The Free State Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC) is in its sixth year of operation, having been established in April 2013. The IKSDC office is situated at the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the University of Free State. The Free State IKSDC began its pilot project in Thaba Nchu, comprising 42 villages. In 2019 new communities were identified. Currently, the IKSDC coordinator is Mr Mike Nxumalo, and the Indigenous Knowledge Recorders are Mrs Tryphena Kraalshoek, Ms Nadia Nkalithsane and Ms Ray-Mondi Loff. As Special Advisor to the IKSDC, Dr Stephanie Cawood provides guidance in terms of the general direction of the project and strategic leadership.

In 2016/17, the IKSDC set out to expand its reach with the aim to bring more communities under the National Recordal System (NRS) in the Free State, while simultaneously continue working in Thaba Nchu.

In 2019/20, the focus of the IKSDC in terms of documentation of Indigenous Knowledge is in the Xhariep District Municipality which is governed by the Griqua Traditional Council. Within the district documentation is conducted in the following areas Bethulie, Koffiefontein, Philippolis, Trompsburg, Edenburg, and Springfontein.

Part of the mandate is to reach as many Indigenous Knowledge Holders as possible. To fulfil this, the IKSDC held a consultation with the traditional healers’ organization to determine the viability of Indigenous Knowledge documentation and harvesting in Thabo Mofutshanyana District Municipality. The outcome was that there is vast Indigenous knowledge held by many community members in the area. As a result, four communities for documentation were identified, these include Bethlehem, Clarens, Fouriesburg and Qwaqwa.

From the findings above, the IKSDC then took a decision that going forward the documentation of Indigenous Knowledge will be conducted in two District Municipalities Xhariep and Thabo Mofutshanyana.

National Recordal System (NRS) and National Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems (NIKMAS)

The Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centers (10 of them across all the provinces of South Africa) are viewed as a pillar for the National Recordal System (NRS) Project in local and indigenous communities.

The National Recordal System initiative is undertaken by the Department of Science and Innovation to enable communities, guilds and other holders of Indigenous Knowledge to record their knowledge holdings for the purpose of future economic benefit and social good. It is envisioned to be the leading IKS treasure hub through the recording, storing, management, maintenance, dissemination, and protection of IK for communal socio-economic development in South Africa. The NRS is supported by National Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems which will comprise a semantic Digital Library with custom-developed metadata schemata and a sophisticated security model to protect, preserve Indigenous Knowledge, an advanced semantic search engine, a sophisticated catalogue system, and an overarching integration architecture that combines the subsystems into a coherent, fit for the purpose system.

NIKMAS will be linked through cyber infrastructure to Provincial Indigenous Knowledge Documentation Centres where the collection, documentation, storage and dissemination and related activities will take place.

The Indigenous Knowledge Act (2019) and the South African National Research and Development Strategy, talk about the need to establish appropriate regulating mechanisms, which can develop protocols and codes of conduct on the documentation and uses of IKS resources. National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office (NIKSO), as a one stop shop of Indigenous Knowledge, at arm’s length with the Department of Science and Innovation, through the Indigenous Knowledge Act is tasked with the protection, promotion, development and management of Indigenous Knowledge.

The Indigenous Knowledge Act proposes that the establishment of Indigenous Knowledge Documentation Centers be located within existing structures such as universities, government institutions, community centres, etc. Such location will act as a facilitating and enabling mechanism. And the services, programmes and projects should involve broad participation and collaboration of members of local and indigenous communities. The rationale for the establishment of such Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centres is to effectively enable and to facilitate the collection of Indigenous Knowledge in both manual and electronic format, within communities, to be captured in NIKMAS with the aim to preserve, promote, and disseminate for the primary benefit of the community and research and innovation.

The establishment of an Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre should build on the indigenous know-how and knowledge of local people. This includes ensuring the management and co-existence between the documentation Centre (s) within the Province and NIKMAS (ICT system that will hold the captured Indigenous Knowledge). The Indigenous Knowledge Documentation Centre thus needs to support the National Recordal System in standardizing the management (including collecting, capturing, storing, maintenance, and dissemination) of Indigenous Knowledge with identified communities.

The primary activities that feed into the operation of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre include among others:

  • To collect, document, and disseminate information on various components of indigenous knowledge within but not limited to the following themes: African Traditional medicine and indigenous foods;
  • To research and mount displays on various aspects of Indigenous Knowledge for example indigenous games linked to mathematics, fermentation of beer (linked to chemistry) and indigenous technologies and metallurgy, etc.
  • To integrate Indigenous Knowledge with other forms of knowledge including science as part of mainstreaming and valorizing its significance and recognition in the knowledge economy;
  • To conduct training programmes and design materials on Indigenous Knowledge for development, with practitioners and holders;
  • To conduct interdisciplinary research on Indigenous Knowledge;
  • To develop cost-effective and reliable methodologies for recording Indigenous Knowledge;
  • To assist in the formulation of policies and design technical assistance programmes based on Indigenous Knowledge.
Special Project Advisor: Dr Stephanie Cawood

Oversees and advises the IKSDC team in terms of the planning and implementation of the project.

IKSDC Project Coordinator: Mr Mike Nxumalo

Plans and implements the operational activities of the project, including but not limited to team leadership, reporting, and overall management of the centre.

Indigenous Knowledge Recorders

Record and document Indigenous Knowledge within the designated community.

Xhariep District Steering Committee members

Assist with the identification and mobilization of indigenous knowledge holders in the community.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Phyllis Masilo: +27 51 401 9683

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