The role of ethnomathematics in the cultural life of AmaNdebele women at Ekosini village in Mpumalanga Province
Ethnomathematics embraces the mathematical ideas, concepts, and strategies used, or simply incorporated in the cultural practices or activities of different ethnic groups in society. Since each cultural group has its own specific way of doing mathematics and mathematizing their realities, these associations frequently represent a given cultural system, particularly the manner in which they evaluate and utilize numbers, geometric forms and relationships, measured or ordered objects in their own environment. Against this background, this study investigated the role of ethnomathematics in the cultural life of AmaNdebele women at Ekosini village in Mpumalanga Province. This study was three-fold. The first was to explore the feminine cultural expression of ethnomathematics in the cultural life of AmaNdebele women. The second was to investigate the mechanisms used by AmaNdebele women in transmitting ethnomathematical knowledge. The third was to explore how Ndebele art sustains the livelihoods of AmaNdebele women. Using the eZiko Sipheka Sisophula Theory and the Cultural Creativity Theory to underpin this study, findings show that Ndebele women are custodians of Ndebele art, which is well seated within mathematical ideas and concepts. Ethnomathematics is utilized as a tool to express the identity of AmaNdebele. The African indigenous philosophies that are discussed in this study guided the researcher to conduct an in-depth study that utilized the appropriate methods for an indigenous research. Thus, this study utilized indigenous research methods to investigate the role of ethnomathematics in the cultural life of AmaNdebele women at Ekosini village in the Mpumalanga Province. The participants who took part in this study were twenty-two in total (with Dr Esther Mahlangu being a key participant in the first data chapter and the third data chapter). However, they were grouped according to the objectives of this study, which have formed the data chapters. The first data chapter of this study utilized an exploratory research design. An indigenous relational approach and indigenous research paradigm was adopted in all data chapters. Using an expert purposive sampling procedure, six participants were sampled. Data analysis was performed through a thematic analysis, where various themes and an emerging theme were identified. The findings suggest that AmaNdebele women use mathematical ideas and concepts to construct their art. In most cases, they depend on their imaginations for measurements and estimations. Furthermore, they have their own techniques in crafting their art and also prefer using unique styles in order to achieve the desired designs. The findings also show that Ndebele art originates from the cosmos and is represented through the symmetrical and geometric shapes. However, such knowledge was lost in the past. The art of Ndebele people does not only show mathematical ideas and concepts but also has cultural significance. The second data chapter utilized an ethnographic research design. A convenient sampling procedure was used to identify five participants in Ekosini village, who took part in a focus group interview. A thematic data analysis was also used to generate themes from the data. The findings of this chapter show that AmaNdebele women use different mechanisms to transfer ethnomnathematical knowledge. There is also a purpose why AmaNdebele women transmit this knowledge. The results of this chapter reveals that there are taboos that play a vital role in knowledge transmission among AmaNdebele women. These taboos are part of customary laws that are established to maintain order in the Ndebele nation. The last data chapter utilized an exploratory research design. The sample size consisted of twelve entrepreneurs from Ndebele art school who availed themselves. Two data analysis processes were utilized for this chapter. Firstly, the data was analysed using the descriptive analysis process. Second, a thematic analysis was used to analyse data from open-ended questions. The tool that was used for this study was tested in Pretoria, Marabastad where most AmaNdebele women sell their artefacts. The findings of this chapter show that AmaNdebele women generate income from selling their artefacts, which is used in different ways to sustain their lives. Furthermore, Dr Esther Mahlangu, who is of Ndebele ethnic group, was a key participant and was also used as an example. From this, the findings revealed that AmaNdebele women are using their indigenous knowledge for job and wealth creation. This aligns well with the IKS policy of 2004, which supports the commercialization and utilization of IK for wealth creation and supports the role women play in IK promotion and preservation. In conclusion, AmaNdebele women are gatekeepers of Ndebele art, which is a visual articulation of ethnomathematical ideas and concepts.They use different mechanisms to transfer ethnomathematical knowledge. AmaNdebele women are breadwinners of their household who generate income from selling this art. Therefore, Ndebele ethnomathematics serves as a cultural identity besides being used to sustain livelihoods. Recommendations for implementation and further research are also provided in this study.