Why our Traditional Knowledge is dying Away (Western Knowledge VS Traditional Knowledge)

“No one has monopoly over knowledge”, a quote from our International Relations lecturer Mr. Bernard Yegiora when I was in school. In this article, I’ll tell you why Traditional Knowledge is dying away, it is because of the monopoly in traditional knowledge.

Knowledge is meant to be shared freely for the betterment of all human race, however that is not the case in our traditional Melanesian societies as most knowledge is deemed sacred.

The difference between our Melanesian societies and the Westerners is that Westerners share their knowledge freely, say academics like a scientist or archeologist, anthropologist, etc., comes upon a wonderful discovery, that person does not harbor that knowledge or keep it hidden. The newfound knowledge or discovery is documented and published in books, articles for the whole world to read and learn. The knowledge is shared freely distributed to academic institutions, libraries and shared online in the modern day age of technology for learning and research purposes. Westerners do not have what we call ‘Keepers of Knowledge”, those who keep knowledge and share it only to a selected few.

In Melanesian societies, we have ‘Keepers of Traditional Knowledge’.
Westerners have what we call ‘SEEKERS OF KNOWLEDGE’, we Melanesians have what we call ‘KEEPERS OF KNOWLEDGE’. Westerners seek and look for (new) knowledge high and low while our Melanesian elders keep the knowledge, who in defense, they might say they’re protecting it, but from who?

Our traditional Melanesian societies never developed any form of writing to document their traditional knowledge, so it was passed orally to the men or women of the society during initiations. Traditional knowledge was passed onto the younger generation orally for the preservation of the knowledge, for boys, when they became men and underwent initiation in the hausman (House for men) and same for the women.

The young men got their teachings from the elderly men of the tribe and women, from the elderly women. Traditional knowledge that was meant for the men were only taught to the men and for women, taught only to the women. Knowledge was never freely shared between the two genders, men had their roles in the society and so did the women.

The initiation process in Melanesian societies is what we might call education for the young men, when they came out of the hausman after initiation, we would say they had graduated. Traditional knowledge of one tribe was sacred and therefore taught only to the members of that tribe, only the members of a tribe can wield such knowledge which comes with power and authority. It was never to be taught to the members of another tribe, this was forbidden.
Traditional knowledge is a knowledge of self for without a knowledge of our cultures and traditions, we are but lost. Traditional/Indigenous knowledge is intertwined with our history, through the tales and legends passed orally, we know who we are as a people, we can identify ourselves with our cultural practices, customs and languages.

Traditional knowledge in our Melanesian society is not shared freely and can never be, most people today do not know about their traditional knowledge, not because they didn’t learn them but because the keepers of the knowledge did not teach them, the keepers of the knowledge took the knowledge to the grave with them. It is about time we start documenting our traditional knowledge so people can learn about our sophisticated and not so primitive cultures. We have a thousands of indigenous knowledge that are slowly dying away with the older generation.

Let’s say my grandmother possesses a traditional knowledge, the “secrets of planting yam”, a traditional knowledge passed from her grandmother to her mother to her, a secret that makes your yams grow big. She however never passed it on to any of the females in our family that knowledge and now that she’s old, she’s going to take that traditional knowledge to the grave with her and that knowledge is gone, forever.

The generation after her may never know there existed a traditional knowledge on how to plant yams so they can grow big. To be honest, this generation knows nothing about their traditional knowledge, being brought up in a modern Melanesian society.

~Why Traditional Knowledge is dying Away

With the arrival of Westerners, they introduced to us their lifestyles, cultures, practices, their religion and their education system. Many Melanesian societies were introduced to the Western education in the early 1900’s, many young children were sent to schools established my missionaries, in schools and churches, they were taught that our traditional practices were evil and had to be destroyed or sent into oblivion.

Those who went for further education in colleges and universities came back home saying the Traditional knowledge was no match for Western knowledge and refused to be taught the old ways of their ancestors. Traditional knowledge had no place in a modern Christian society. The elders seeing there was no interest among the young men of the tribe educated in the Western ways died with sorrow knowing their once flourishing culture was coming to an end. They went to grave with the knowledge they possessed.

But not all traditional knowledge has to be shared freely, some are sacred to a tribe and therefore, must be respected, though document, it must remain with the members of the tribe to be taught to their children and their children’s children.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.