In collaboration with fellow sculptors he is in the process of transforming Nhaka, which stretches across a valley that is also home to some ancient San cave paintings, into a Shona sculpture park that will combine traditional art with traditional, organic farming.
Over a delicious meal of 'manondo' caterpillars, hot chilli sauce and pan-fried kariba bream, Dr Sadomba explained to us his approach to analysing proverbs and taboos in order to understand scientific knowledge held in the Shona culture, which has been observed, verified and passed down through successive generations.
He used the proverb 'rume rimure barikombi churu' (in the Shona language) as an example. He explained that the verb in this sentence, 'kokomba', is mainly used in the context of cooperative hunting, referring to the practice of surrounding the prey in order to catch it. 'Rume' is a 'giant' or 'great person'. 'Churu' is a termite mound. From my understanding of the proverb, I think perhaps an approximate translation might be 'Even a great person cannot defeat a termite mound'.
Dr Sadomba's analysis of this proverb is as follows: Termite mounds are usually associated with rich vegetation, due to the moisture- and micronutrient-enriching behaviour of the termite activity. Thus, if a prey animal such as a rabbit encounters a termite mound while being chased by an expert hunter (our 'great person', or, as Dr Sadomba put it, a 'giant'), it will disappear among the vegetation, defeating the efforts of the hunter. The nature of the termite mound itself defeats the giant.
The final component of Dr Sadomba's proverb analysis is proof that it is an accurate interpretation: If correct, the inferred scientific knowledge (in this case, the ability of termite to generate nutrient- and moisture-rich soils) should be used in some way, according to local tradition. And, in this case, termite mound soils are used as a natural fertiliser across Shona territory, and known to increase crop yields through enriching soil fertility.
Through analysing the proverbs and taboos that are integral to language and culture, it is possible to access scientific knowledge that can also be put to practical use. I'd like to find out more about what the world's oral archives might have to say about edible insects in different cultures..
(The title of Dr Sadomba's 1995 paper, in which he published this analysis, is: Use of Proverbs and Taboos as Oral Archives of Traditional Knowledge: A Participatory Method for Studying Traditional Environmental Knowledge System)