NWU student documents Khoi-San medicinal practices

Issued by
Johannesburg, Jun 6, 2017

Simangaliso Lesley Mashego, from the North-West University's (NWU's) campus in Mahikeng, documented the indigenous medicinal expertise of the Khoi-San community in the Northern Cape as part of the final-year research component of his Bachelor of Indigenous Knowledge Science (BIKS) degree.

Mashego is part of the research group Seboka that is supervised by Prof Abel Pienaar, a renowned Khoi-San health expert, and TM Taaka, a pharmacist.

For generations, the Khoi-San has relied on local plants to use as medicine. Mashego's research objective was to explore the medicinal culture of a specific Northern Cape Khoi-San community and to scientifically describe the indigenous use of medicinal plants, in particular, the parts of plants used, mixture formulations and the types of illnesses treated.

In his research, Mashego emphasised the essential contribution indigenous medicinal plants make to enable indigenous communities to meet their primary healthcare needs. According to Mashego, the vital knowledge on medicinal plant use in Khoi-San communities is sacred, as it is passed down from generation to generation through verbal and rock-drawing traditions.

"Being an IKS student has unlocked the true African in me. We are not just consumers of other nations' innovations, but we are innovators ourselves and have influenced most of the world's innovations," said Mashego.

Through his research, Mashego found the loss of traditional plants and forms of indigenous knowledge such as storytelling or narratives threatens the existence of this pivotal culture of relying on nature and respecting the ecological systems of the land.