By Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
Social media is an escape for many youths and adults alike. It has become a reflective opium, today there are some who cannot live without it.
It is a place where some imagine how they would have recreated themselves if they had a chance. Through self-curated content, users have an opportunity to project an attribute or side they feel represents them better.
Sometimes this process is not the most laudable. Social media usage has drawn scorn, with some attributing social ills to its ever increasing popularity.
It is a place where anything and everything goes. Consensus has remained elusive on whether society, especially in the Zimbabwean context, has benefited from the popularity of new media as well as social networks.
But as with many questions of a moral nature, conclusive answers are never reached.
Besides being a place where people converge to shout and rant, social media has potential to be a preservative portal for the authentic Zimbabwean story.
There has never been a time in history where people have widespread range and ability to capture events as it is now.
An opportunity presents itself for the digital generation to fix something which has long been identified as a handicap to the development of indigenous knowledge.
It has been difficult for authentic Zimbabwean knowledge and practices to be assimilated in the “mainstream” because they had not been documented through conventional methods.
Western knowledge at the moment enjoys an advantage over the local equivalent in the sense that the former is perceived to be better documented in comparison.
When knowledge is well-documented, it is easier to scrutinise, develop and advance.
Dr Justin Chisenga, writes on the need to intersect information technology and the documentation of indigenous knowledge.
In a 2002 paper titled, “Indigenous knowledge: Africa’s opportunity to contribute to global information content”, he argues that indigenous knowledge in most communities around the world is generally not documented; it is shared through traditional oral communication systems.
As a solution to this problem, Dr Chisenga suggests that there is need for the Internet to act as a portal for documentation of indigenous knowledge.
“Globalisation of Africa’s IK (indigenous knowledge) can only happen if there is a deliberate approach to capturing, documenting, storing and providing access to such knowledge on the web.”
The paper, written 17 years ago, had not predicted the advent of social networks, but its instructive plea should be enough to get young people involved in the active capture of their stories.
At the time, the creation of content was a preserve of those he termed information professionals in the mould of journalists, filmmakers and related craftsmen.
Fortunately, there has been the liberalisation of how information circulates in society, through rudimentary gadgets like mobile phones, conversations can be captured into perpetuity.
Internet users, the majority of whom are youths, now play the dual role of being producers and consumers of information.
As the complexities around capturing and sharing information are thawing with each passing day, there is optimism that priceless pieces of Zimbabwean heritage are captured by those who have been empowered through technology.
There is need for some degree of coordination to rally the country’s young who are proficient with these tools to ensure their grandparents and older relatives do not die with undocumented information of high value.
Once captured and shared, the availability of information can inspire others to find creative ways to package it for future utilisation.
Oral tradition, although it has been a reliable way to pass on information across generations, may be a method overtaken by time.
It used to be more effective when the intended recipients of the information used to understand the importance of receiving the information and subsequently repeating the process.
In Zimbabwe’s case, some of its youth would need to be oriented on the need to keep our truths alive. That is a process whose proper execution can trigger the automatic documentation which the future desperately requires.
Maybe, there can be an integration of approaches, getting influencers — those with considerable clout on the internet — to trigger conversations that speak to the need to document stories we are close to.
Dr Langtone Maunganidze, a scholar, said the best approach would be for indigenous knowledge to be organically part of the conversation.
There is no need for visible efforts in building a narrative, it bears more promise if there is a natural tone to the conversations.
“Practices of IKS and their interface with health are shaped by deep-seated and reproducible cultural dispositions or mindsets nurtured within the society.
Habitus constitutes a set of durable, transposable dispositions which regulate mental activity to the point where individuals are often unconsciously aware of their influence,” says Dr Maunganidze.
The agenda fits aptly to the seemingly disorganised nature of social media as Dr Maunganidze suggests that; “The habitus is thus not wholly structured, though it still remains strongly influenced by historical, social and cultural contexts.”
In tracing the historiography of Zimbabwe and its people, rock paintings feature prominently. Despite being a simple way of capturing events, they provided a basis upon which most truths we know today are constructed.
Rock paintings saved African history through their imagery, without them, stories could have been defiled beyond recognition.
As life evolves, so do the voices in it.
Now is the time for this country’s youth to revive rock paintings, this time in digital format. We should not let our stories die when we have the means to document them.
Feedback: [email protected]