Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Mulembe Mutinze Cuusansi (the great turning) – The Confluence at the Nile River

Budd Hall is the Joint UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, and an ACU Engage Community Steering Committee member. In May this year, he attended the Confluence 2017 International Transformative event – a major project for the Chair over the past five years. Here, Professor Hall talks about the event and the role of Indigenous knowledge in the world.

The Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity is located in the Kingdom of Busoga in Uganda, near the town of Jinja. Jinja lies at the location where the Nile river begins its flow north from Lake Victoria. Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity is a space for higher education research that focuses on the recovery and revitalisation of African traditional Indigenous knowledge. Mpambo believes that Africa and its people will not achieve their full potential until they are able to recover and strengthen their African intellectual roots, and thus be able to bring the ancient knowledge and wisdom of the African people to the global knowledge pool available to make our planet better. The Mpambo African Multiversity is led by Wangoola Wangoola Ndawula.

The UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research has been working with Mpambo as part of its knowledge democracy stream of work. In May of 2017, in cooperation with Mpambo, VIDEA – an international development NGO from Victoria, Canada, and Inclusion Press, from Toronto, Canada, brought together Indigenous intellectuals from Canada, Malaysia and Kenya, along with non-Indigenous allies, to an event called the Confluence. 

Confluence 2017

Confluence 2017 brought together 50 mother tongue scholars, Indigenous leaders from Turtle Island (North America), and allies to the sacred source of the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda, for a week of reflection and celebration. The purpose of the event was to share Indigenous knowledge systems, as a contribution to facing the many challenges in the world.

It was said that Confluence 2017 was the first international conference to be held in Uganda with Luganda and Lusoga as the working languages, with English translation for those who did not speak either of the mother tongues. Confluence 2017 has been a major project for our UNESCO Chair, as it seeks to deepen our understanding of knowledge democracy and support knowledge generation and sharing for those who have been excluded from our global mainstream. We have partnered with the Mpambo Afrikan Multiversity in Uganda over the past five years as plans were being made to hold this event.

Confluence 2017 was organised in response to the Afrikan prophecy of Mulembe Mutinze Cuusansi, which says that it is time for those who hold Indigenous knowledge to share it with others in the world in the interest of moving the world forward in a more balanced, sustainable and just manner. This call is sometimes referred to as the great turning in non-Indigenous circles.

When European contact was made in Uganda, political conquest and colonisation went hand-in-hand with concerted and ongoing efforts to discredit and kill off the knowledge systems that had proven effective for many thousands of years. This epistemicide was particularly savage when it came to African spiritual traditions. Christianity and Islam claimed moral and intellectual superiority over traditional practices of prayer and grounding with the land. African spirituality was labelled as satanic. People who practice it are still, according to testimony at Confluence 2017, disrespected and despised. Confluence 2017 provided an opportunity for an equal and respectful exchange of ideas about knowledge and justice, and the re-emergence of the spiritual philosophy of 'Tondism'. Tondism, arising from that land where all human life began and with it all human spiritual and intellectual life, derives its name from the word Katonda, the African God of Peace.

Through drumming, dance, music, prayer, presentations, visits from and to African spiritual leaders and traditional medicine practitioners, those participating experienced a truly transformative experience. The organiser, Wangoola Wangoola Ndawula noted that: "Confluence 2017 has exceeded my expectations. This event, which has unified and restored the confidence of many of Uganda's spiritual leaders and Mother tongue scholars, is one of the most important achievements of this century."

What can be learned from Confluence 2017?

Confluence 2017 provided evidence of the similarity of vision between Indigenous knowledge keepers in Africa and those from Canada and elsewhere. There is a shared understanding that knowledge is holistic, is linked to the land and earth, and is inseparable from the spirit. We also learned how the spread of Western knowledge through conquest and colonialism has nearly eliminated many of the ancient knowledge systems of the world, leaving us a human race less able to deal with the complex issues we are facing. Finally in an era when universities are responding to the challenges of decolonisation, Confluence offers us a concrete example of how at least one approach to decolonising knowledge can happen.

We would love to hear from others in the Commonwealth about similar efforts or intentions? Email us at

ACU Engage Community

Budd Hall is a Steering Committee member for the ACU's Engage Community. Professor Hall is Joint UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and a Professor of Community Development at the University of Victoria, Canada. His most recent books are: Knowledge, Democracy and Action: Community-University Research Partnerships in Global Perspectives (Manchester University Press), Learning and Teaching Community-Based Research (U of T Press), Higher Education and Community-Based Research (Palgrave-MacMillan) and Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education's Contribution to Social Change – with R Tandon and C Esgrigas (Palgrave-MacMillan).

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Last modified on 05/10/2017
Tags: Africa, research, ACU Engage Community, Canada, Community engagement