n Mousaion - Decolonising indigenous intellectual and cultural rights in heritage institutions : a survey of policy and protocol in South Africa

Volume 33, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



This article analyses the protection of indigenous knowledge (IK) in South Africa, exploring if and how the rights of indigenous peoples are insulated from pillage by existing policy and protocol frameworks in cultural heritage institutions. The article examines how policy and protocol in these institutions, the socio-economic realities within indigenous communities and legislative bottlenecks bear on the digitisation enterprise in the country. The study used the Delphi method to collect and analyse data. The major finding of the study was that, in an attempt to safeguard indigenous intellectual and cultural rights, some cultural heritage institutions are seeking to bridge the gap between Western legal requirements and indigenous intellectual rights by the inclusion of specific policy measures which take on board indigenous interests and concerns. The major themes that emerged from the study have cultural, legislative and structural underpinnings. These themes outline the fundamental characteristics of the policies and protocols of digitisation initiatives in the country. The study recommends that heritage institutions in South Africa should recognise their influence as sociocultural agents and actively submit 'decolonising' recommendations for statutory development. It also urges these institutions to continue building consultation networks with various indigenous stakeholders in order to improve best practice.

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