Tradition continues, so does the knowledge…

It is back to work after a spell of festivities and meeting with family and friends. What is interesting is that millions celebrated at the same time the traditional festivals with vigour and seemed not to have lost the charm even in the midst of modern outlook.
Nizwa souq has been the perfect example to prove it. The goat market and its live auctioning come alive each time the festivals arrive. And along with all the actions are young children who accompany their fathers and learn about traditions naturally and not from books.
From an indigenous cactus that is believed to be wonderful to fight diabetes to zattar oil that is meant to be great for skin, Nizwa souq is a place that is alive with traditions.
Traditional knowledge is fast being lost in many parts of the world. According to World Intellectual Property Organization: “Traditional Knowledge (TK) is knowledge, know-how, skills and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity.”
When certain traditions are still alive sometimes it is hard to detect as knowledge. Often in many cases in the world traditional knowledge is often brushed aside as myth or just a belief because in today’s world we want scientific proof.
Yet there is that question that looms around, “haven’t traditional knowledge and wisdom lasted for centuries?”
We are in the era where doubts play an important role today and proof ends almost all debates.
Is there a danger of losing traditional knowledge? We received our share of traditional knowledge of Oman during Observer’s live session on @omanobserver facebook page. The auctioneering technique was vibrant and probably is one of the oldest business practices in Oman. Would it not be interesting if business students of today had the opportunity to witness it happening right in front of them?
Young children climbed a date palm with ease to reach the roof top that was functioning as a shade for other cattle and goat owners who were waiting for their turn to participate in the auction. The children perched on the roof top had the best view of the auction. Some of the children carried small ropes imitating their parents.
Not all were buying goats for home but were actually trading.
One of the gentlemen had already bought five to six goats and he would resell them. The bid caller has a unique style and so is the bid block. The bid block is circular and the potential buyers sit on the central area or stand on the outer circle. Once the bid caller begins with a price the potential buyers state the rate as well. The animals are taken around the bid block so they get to see them. The business is brisk and probably there would be no other system that could replace this traditional method for a while. It would be fascinating to know more about the rules of the traditional auctioning and even the terminologies. There must be a system because it has lasted for so many years.
Once again quoting WIPO: “Traditional knowledge can be found in a variety of contexts, including agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological and medicinal knowledge
as well as biodiversity — related knowledge.”
Traditional knowledge however is not protected in many situations. WIPO points out traditional knowledge have ancient roots and are often oral and are not protected by conventional intellectual property systems. WIPO breaks it down into key themes — defensive protection and
positive protection.
While defensive protection looks into ‘set of strategies to ensure that third parties do not gain illegitimate or unfounded intellectual property rights over traditional knowledge,’ positive protection looks into preventing unauthorised use and active exploitation of traditional knowledge by the community where it originates from.
Nizwa souq in this regard is a place that seems to be an open class room for traditional knowledge. On one side you have farm produce such as the large pomegranates of Jebel al Akhdhar that are highly in demand because they are seasonal and so is garlic. What is more interesting is that the produce is farmed with the centuries old irrigation system — falaj, recognised by Unesco
as world heritage.
Go inside the souq and you come across the Omani halwa makers for whom the talent has been passed on from one generation to another, but what is heartwarming is the younger generation continues to participate in the art and business of halwa making.
Walk further into the souq and it is the world of silversmiths. The khanjar making has been a profession that has been extremely important. Once again there stands the new generation giving the finishing touches to the belt of the khanjar to a young man who is purchasing it for the Eid celebration.
Tradition continues, so does the knowledge.

Lakshmi Kothaneth

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