Monicca Thulisile Bhuda, a master’s student in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), at the North-West University (NWU), is using ethno-mathematics as part of her research to trace symmetrical geometry in Ndebele mural art and beadwork.
“Ethno-mathematics basically means the relationship between culture and mathematics,” says Bhuda. “African cultures use mathematics in their daily lives. African ethno-mathematics can be seen in the Egyptian pyramids, Timbuktu manuscripts, African indigenous games, as well as masks such as those of the Dagon’s of Mali, rock painting, textile technologies and mural art.
Bhuda investigates the meaning of colours and the connotations of the shapes in Ndebele beadwork and mural art. Her study also focuses on how knowledge is transferred from elderly women to younger females. She also examines the role of ethno-mathematics and how it was born in the Ndebele culture.
“My passion for ethno-mathematics really took off in 2015 and everything I do in academia revolves around it, says Bhuda. “According to the 2011 census, isiNdebele is one of the least spoken languages in South Africa, which means that the Ndebele people are adopting other cultures. As a young Ndebele woman, I see it as my duty to preserve, promote, develop, document and disseminate the knowledge of my people.”
The key participant in Bhuda’s study is Dr Esther Mahlungu, who is known as the mother of Ndebele beadwork and mural art. “She is doing her part in promoting the Ndebele culture internationally, and I want to follow in her footsteps and do it in the academic world,” she adds.