College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

Align to indigenous science

Align to indigenous science

The inaugural lecture of Prof Melanie Nicolau, Department of Geography, entitled Re-imagining geography for a sustainable future, took place on 19 November 2018.

Contemporary geography is strongly influenced by the period of the enlightenment and the colonial period, and is dominated by the fundamentals of western science, said Nicolau during her inaugural lecture. "Western science calls for rationality, logic and reason, and this has resulted in a fundamental separation of humanity from nature, as well as an understanding that knowledge generated must be objective."

Nicolau pointed out that within the context of a world that was increasingly calling for more sustainable living, geographers should move their focus to a curriculum and research that are aligned to more sustainable futures. "In my opinion, this can only be achieved if the discipline aligns itself to the fundamentals of indigenous sciences."

She said that, in contrast to western science, indigenous science called for a stronger interrelationship between humanity and nature and placed value on experience and wisdom. "Using over three decades of teaching geography as well as my experience working within rural communities of South Africa, I make suggestions on how the curriculum and research methodology can be better aligned to indigenous science and in this way can position itself to contributing to a more sustainable future," she concluded.

You can read the inaugural lecture here.

The person behind the professor

What motivates you?

The chance to provide people with opportunities to grow to their full potential and in this way create a better life for themselves

And disheartens you?

The selfishness and manipulative nature of the politics in South Africa

What do you do for fun?

Travelling, gardening and I am a qualified dog judge

What makes you angry?

The actions of any individual that display arrogance and lack of empathy within the context of our hugely unequal society

Describe yourself as an academic leader in three words?

Proactive, resilient, passionate

Which three people, living or dead, would you have liked to invite to your inaugural lecture, and why?

My father and maternal grandfather, both deceased, who both encouraged me to enter academia and who always had more faith in my academic potential than I ever had.

While working in rural villages towards my PhD, my numerous discussions and interactions with Rajaki Neo Sesoko (aka Peter Phefo), a community member from the traditional village of Koffiekraal, North West Province, helped shape many of my ideas that have been reflected in my inaugural lecture and which now define me as an academic and as a geographer.

* Compiled by Sharon Farrell, Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/07/02