The vanishing world of our ancestors
Should we dispense with ancient ways of life in the name of progress or cherish them as a way to stay in touch with our own heritage? Bridget Kendall’s guides to the societies of New Guinea, Sikkim, Nepal and Zanzibar are celebrated American scholar and author Jared Diamond, Nepali - Indian writer Prajwal Parajuly and South African anthropologist Rose Boswell.
(Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty)
Professor of Geography at UCLA, polymath Jared Diamond has been visiting the remote tropical island of New Guinea for fifty years. He says that the tribal way of life there, for all its problems, provides unique insights that could serve us modern humans well, and explains why he thinks their attitude to child rearing, old age, diet and danger could teach us a thing or two.
Writer Prajwal Parajuly comes from Sikkim, a small Indian state high up in the Himalaya mountains, on the border with Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It’s a part of the world with lots of ethnic diversity and ancient traditions and in his short stories Prajwal explores the ambiguous role traditions play in the lives of women in Nepali-speaking communities.
Originally from the island of Mauritius, Rhodes University anthropologist Rose Boswell has studied women’s traditions at other Indian Ocean islands, especially Zanzibar and Madagascar. She tells us what makes the inhabitants of Zanzibar remain faithful to traditional birthing rituals, while people elsewhere adapt a more Western way of life.
60 second Idea to Change the World
Rose Boswell says that every person in the world, aged 21 – 41, should be mandated to travel to a foreign place. The place of travel would be chosen at random by a computer and the traveller's task at his or her destination would be to learn a local old ritual, a bit of wisdom or maybe a traditional healing method. Not only would this broaden people's minds but traditional knowledge would be preserved in the best possible way: not in museums or on DVDs and servers but as a living entity spread amongst the widest section of humanity.
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