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GSSC Seminar Series
30 January 2024


Indigenous Environmental Resilience: Decoding Ancient Rozvi Wisdom on Mountain Ecosystems as Disaster Management Solutions

Lesley Hatipone Machiridza (University of Cologne)



Since time immemorial, Indigenous communities have always perceived the landscape as a complex web of living, physical and spiritual things. These communities have always relied on their Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), emphasizing ancestral burial grounds, mountains, caves, rivers, pools, forests, monuments and other cultural diacritics as symbols of place identity. In addition, myriad metaphors like taboos, legends, tales, folklore, myths, proverbs, stories and practices, also constituted an integral part of Indigenous cultural and nature connections. This heritage was constantly imagined and configured to cement human-nature relations. However, the advent of colonialism severely violated this status quo, thereby causing deep environmental, political and social crises. Through imposing a hegemonic scientific paradigm, knowledge compartmentalization and capitalist aggrandizing practices, the original harmonious human-nature praxis premised on IKS was disrupted. To this day, the exclusionary colonial legacy and poisoned ‘sense of place’ remains our greatest threat to climate and environmental stability. Thus, this paper advocates for the recentralization of IKS as valid ways of knowing with already inbuilt disaster management solutions. By pivoting Rozvi narratives premised on five mountains, namely; Manyanga in Bubi district, Mavangwe, MunwewaMwari and Bepe in Buhera district, and Mutikwiri in Maungwe near Rusape town, all situated in former Butua/Guruuswa regions of Zimbabwe as case studies, the power of ancient wisdom as a holistic epistemic approach towards sustainable human-nature relations is explicated.

Lesley Hatipone Machiridza is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Post-doctoral Fellow affiliated to the University of Cologne between January 2023 and January 2025. He has over 14 years of University teaching and research experience, although he initially started his career as a museum curator for a period of two years. Machiridza is also a member of the Great Zimbabwe University, UNESCO Chair on African heritage (2021-2024) as well as the (2021-2022) Heritage Place Lab/Pilot Phase under the ICCROM-IUCN WORLD HERITAGE LEADERSHIP PROGRAM-LEARNING NETWORKS. He holds a PhD, MA and BA Special Honours in Archaeology as well as a BA General degree. His research interests’ span across multiple disciplines although he maintains close focus on specific themes of complexity development, material culture studies, identities, ethnicity, landscapes, heritage and memory, museology and decolonization. As an interdisciplinary scholar, his growing interest towards Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), particularly the precolonial Rozvi narratives (1685-1830) has opened new and exciting research avenues towards the global contentious issue of climate change. Implicitly, Dr. Machiridza is currently grappling with carving his niche area within the climate change discourse by prioritizing perspectives from the Global South or Indigenous narratives as equally valid forms of knowing with immense potential to complement the highly valued strict scientific approaches.