Encyclopedia of Science Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Richard Gunstone

Indigenous Technology

  • Mischack GumboEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6165-0_367-2

Understanding “indigenous technology” begins with defining indigenous. The possible definitions are many. The term is used in reference to plants, animals, or people that naturally belong to a particular place (Hornby 1998, p. 606). It can be defined as “native,” as in something not introduced directly or indirectly according to historical record or scientific analysis into a particular land or region or environment from the outside (Kim and Berry (1993, p. 2). Indigenous is associated with people originating or developing naturally in a particular land, region, or environment (Kim and Berry 1993, p. 2). Indigenous is a term used to describe people who are the original inhabitants of a particular geographical area (Pollock 1995, p. 21).

Indigenous people are the custodians of indigenous technology. The definition of indigenous people is not always clear (Psacharopoulos and Partrinos 1994, p. 21) as it is complicated by the fact that the term indigenous people includes culture, identity, language, tradition, faith, and belief (Gumbo 2001). However, indigenous people may be thought of as those people naturally originating in a particular country or region or natives. There may also be specific names such as Blacks in the case of South Africa. To be indigenous, people must be in their indigenous environment. Thus, for example, Black Africans even if born in India cannot claim to be indigenous people of India.

With respect to technology, technology refers to the totality of the means employed to provide objects necessary for human sustenance and comfort (Arnoldi, Geary and Hardin 1996, p. 31). It is the science of construction (Gillet 1973, p. 2). This definition can be extended to include the use of tools that are in turn the products of the same technology. Technology is the application of scientific and other organized knowledge to practical tasks by hierarchically ordered systems that involve people and machines (Naughton 1981, p. 8). Others define technology as the know-how and creative process that may use tools, resources, and systems to solve problems to enhance control over the natural and man-made environment in an endeavor to improve human conditions (Treagust and Mather 1990, p. 53). It is regarded as human knowledge applied to the solution of existing practical problems (Waks 1995, p. 2.2). Technology can therefore be defined as a disciplined process where human knowledge, skills, and resources are used to construct tools in order to find a solution to existing practical problems by investigating, designing, developing, and evaluating products, processes, and systems.

Taken together, indigenous technology refers to the technological knowledge, skills, and resources transmitted or handed down from the past indigenous people to the present ones to meet their needs and wants by means of investigating, designing, developing, and evaluating products, processes, and systems with an intention of solving the practical problems. Indigenous technology is used by the native inhabitants of a country or region and it constitutes an important part of its cultural heritage.

Characteristically, indigenous technologies:
  • Are recognized as animate, imbued with the breath of life and they live in form and function.

  • Emerge from the implicate order to reflect the art of skillful living. Indigenous technologies are pragmatic. It is responsive and responsible to the ecology in which it lives.

  • Attract the learning spirit(s) and provide a learning ecology that supports the revitalization and transformation of awareness and knowledge.

  • Are intended to enhance the ability to maintain and renew balance and harmony within a multidimensional environment.

  • Are created within a sensory environment that builds on our sense of relationship, meaning, balance, feeling, memory, and place as well as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

  • Seeks to engage and evoke significant knowledge and experiences reflective of the indigenous world through meaningful interactions.

  • Have the obligation to come into existence, to be used, and to transform within an ethical space that is responsible to life in all its forms.

  • Have intrinsic value because we know their ancestry and what their place is in our world.

The following photos show examples of indigenous technology in South African. These technologies address such needs as shelter, food, defense, and clothing.



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology EducationUniversity of South AfricaThe Orchards, PretoriaSouth Africa