Remembering Southern African Matrescence Practices: An Auto-Ethnographic Indigenous Research Journey.

This study intends to make contribution to uncovering and documenting the oldest southern African, indigenous matrescence practices. Coined by Medical anthropologist Dana Raphael (1975), matrescence refers to the process of being nurtured into motherhood as a culturally validated and resourced rite de passage. The published position among health care professionals in South Africa’s public hospitals is that maternal health is in a state of crisis and obstetric violence is the norm (De Maayer, 2022; Boden, 2022). These sentiments echo those held by South African women (Msomi, 2022). In addition to traumatic, unhealthy births, South African mothers are wholly unsupported through what is one of the greatest material and spiritual transformations a woman can undergo.

The project uses maternal health and happiness as the focal issue driving research to which science is central. Matrescence is theoretically conceptualised as a possible form of sociality that can engender maternal health and happiness. Matrescence is in turn framed within the indigenous epistemology of Ubu-Ntu, the relational and animist cosmology of southern Africa. In journeying to recover, remember and document pre-colonial matrescence practices that emerged from communities that subscribe(d) to the cosmology of Ubu-Ntu, the project intends to forge praxis-informed linkages between science communication scholarship and these forms of under-explored, marginalised, indigenous ways of knowing.

Using Indigenous Methodologies and employing the research methods of (1) auto-ethnography, (2) journey as research method and (3) in-depth, qualitative interviews, this study is a decolonial project that aims to remember and foreground Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) as an act of epistemic and hermeneutic justice. This project positions science communication, as to also do with remembering and valuing the indigenous forms of knowledge and healthcare that have been lost due to colonial violence. The project is a small offering from Taryn Mackay and her lineage to a resurgence of esteem, validity and enquiry into the agency of indigenous peoples to tend to health and wellness, grow thriving life and, the communication systems and practices that allow this way of being to be sustained across time, space and great cruelty and violence.

PhD Researcher: Taryn Mackay | PhD Supervisor: Prof Mehita Iqani