02 June 2022 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo YouTube
Prof Bagele Chilisa
Prof Bagele Chilisa, renowned scholar of post-colonialism, author, and African thought leader.

Indigenous knowledge production and the role of Africa in global knowledge production was a key focus when Prof Bagele Chilisa, post-colonial scholar from the University of Botswana, presented the 2022 Africa Day Memorial Lecture. 

The lecture took place virtually on 25 May 2022 and the topic was Research and knowledge production: Africa and the call for a fifth research paradigm. It was hosted by the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) at the University of the Free State (UFS).

“The lecture commemorates a key milestone in African history,” said Prof Chitja Twala, Vice-Dean: Faculty of The Humanities, who introduced Prof Chilisa. 

African indigenous knowledge at centre stage 

“In this lecture I invite you to celebrate Africa’s unity of mind and claim Africa’s space in the global knowledge production,” Prof Chilisa said as she opened her lecture.  

The increase in academic interest in African indigenous knowledge systems and philosophies is a significant recognition of Africa’s role in global knowledge production – “it is a fulfilment of the African Union’s aspiration,” she said.

She also argued that the indigenous knowledge of the formerly colonised peoples of Africa, indigenous peoples, and other marginalised people of the world, should not be used as vignettes to decorate websites of global corporations, “but should be recognised as knowledge systems fitting a unique paradigm on equal footing with Western paradigms”. 

African universities are another role player in promoting African indigenous knowledge systems.  She said a paradigm shift is needed in research approaches – “indeed, in recognition of a new paradigm on which sits knowledge products that tap from indigenous knowledge.”  

Dr Stephanie Cawood, Director of the CGAS, reiterated Prof Chilisa's points, saying, “Indigenous knowledge is the most important body of knowledge to help us understand how millions, if not billions, live their daily lives.”  

The lecture also drew on Ghanaian politician and political theorist Kwame Nkrumah’s call for Africa-centred knowledge, Nigerian political scientist Claude Ake’s promotion of endogenous knowledge, and Kenyan writer and academic Ngugi wa Thiongo’s theories on the decolonisation of the mind. Prof Chilisa recalled Africa’s innovations in the COVID-19 crisis, which she said celebrated Africa’s unity of mind and helped claim Africa’s space in global knowledge production. 

Upholding ideals of a united Africa 

The quest for African unity has been inspired by the spirit of pan-Africanism. “With its focus on liberation, political and economic independence, it is further motivated by development based on self-reliance, and self-determination of African people with democratic and people-centred governance,” Prof Chilisa said. She added that Africa should aspire to be an integrated continent, “politically united and based on ideals of pan-Africanism and the ideals of an African renaissance”. 

Lecture links UFS with international African thought leaders

The UFS Africa Day Memorial Lecture has been, for the past 13 years, a platform for scholars to talk and reflect on African issues against the backdrop of memorialising Africa Day. “Internationalisation is a concept that is very important to us at the UFS, as we see it as a vehicle that connects us to global knowledge, and as a critical driver for research and innovation,” said Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor

Prof Petersen also noted the importance of the lecture, saying, “This why we attach so much value to prominent international voices emanating from different parts of our continent – such as Prof Chilisa’s – to broaden our perspective and remind us of our shared heritage with prominent international voices emerging from the continent.” 

Watch recording of lecture below:

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