FE-MAIL TIES - Continuation of knowledge

Published: Monday | February 2, 2009

D'Empress, Contributor


The transition from the industrial era to a knowledge economy over the past decade, has spurned many developments. From the business world to our intimate social spaces, the ways in which we go about our daily lives have evolved to greater heights.

As we strive for optimum efficiency and better connectivity, the advance of technology sends us spiralling into hazy spaces where it's all about 'me'. The focus on the up close and personal has morphed into exactly the opposite!

You can sense the growing thirst for a more personal touch in our everyday business; the need for bonding time and focus reanchored in quality not quantity. It's the humane response to the fallout that we're experiencing in the Information Age.

We are all players and consumers in the knowledge economy, but how far do we actively craft a brave, new knowledge culture to support our souls in this evolution?

Not surprisingly, one of Africa's greatest knowledge cultures is currently undergoing a revival. What does the word Timbuktu mean to you? For many in the Western and Northern hemispheres, Timbuktu is a mythical, unreachable place that languishes in a mindset tarnished by colonial (mis)education.

In fact, Timbuktu is a city in the West African country of Mali. Boasting a rich cultural heritage, Mali is cited as one of the poorest countries in the world today. Located in midst of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu is home to what remains one of the world's greatest knowledge centres and one of Africa's most valuable riches - the Timbuktu Manuscripts. Over the last three years, the South African and Malian governments have worked in partnership to revitalise the knowledge heritage of Timbuktu.

Beautiful documentation

Far from being a twilight zone, intellectuals and scholars wrote tomes about all aspects of life from astronomy to civil law, dating back as far as the 15th century. Thought leaders of the day scribed their works in beautiful hand-crafted leather-bound books on handmade paper in beautiful calligraphy. There was a veritable industry created through the documentation and preservation of the word.

Apart from the knowledge economy of the day, the ways in which knowledge was cultivated was defined by a culture of dialogue, debate and contribution from all who cared to participate. Often scholars refrained from naming (owning) their works as they saw their manuscripts as a contribution to the greater good of society.

The manuscripts were read in discussion groups and the insights and conclusions gleaned were systematically documented, adding to the body of knowledge. While the craft of manuscript making has been eroded through the passage of time, the culture of knowledge sharing and evolution continues to exist in the arid sands of Timbuktu.

Maybe it is we who, brandishing BlackBerrys and high-octane lifestyles, are the ones who will continue to feel bereft and adrift until we are able to drink from a life-enhancing source of knowledge. A fountain that we have crafted in a deliberate effort to create a 2009 knowledge culture devised for our common evolution? As they say, each one, teach one. Let's start there.

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