Reviving Ancient Wisdom: Oxford Scholars Decode Sustainability Lessons from Traditional Kazakh and Malay Proverbs
Exploring Sustainability Through Proverbs
Oxford University scholars, Olga Mun and Aizuddin Mohamed Anuar, have harnessed the power of traditional Kazakh and Malay proverbs to delve into the depths of sustainability. Through an arts-based project, they have analyzed these vintage sayings to extract ancient wisdom on environmental responsibility, economic efficiency, and social solidarity. They believe that these proverbs offer a rich source of knowledge that predates even the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mun and Anuar have compiled their findings into a zine, a small self-published work of original texts and images, titled ‘Telaga Zher’. The name is a combination of Malay and Kazakh words meaning ‘water spring’ and ‘soil’ respectively, symbolizing the core essence of their study. They hope that this method of teaching can bring global epistemic diversity and a fresh approach to knowledge production and dissemination.
The project is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, blending the age-old wisdom of proverbs with the new-age format of zine. The researchers believe that the zine’s affordability and accessibility can make it an effective tool for spreading awareness about sustainability. In essence, the project is an attempt to critique the contemporary knowledge production that is often isolated from real-world crises.
A Wealth of Sustainable Wisdom
Through their research, Mun and Anuar have collected 30 proverbs centered around three key topics: economy, society, and environment. These proverbs offer intriguing insights into collective wisdom, with many emphasizing the importance of social inclusion, long-term planning, resource management, and environmental protection.
The scholars contend that the wisdom encapsulated in these proverbs predates the SDGs, highlighting the depth and richness of the knowledge possessed by past societies. They believe that these proverbs can serve as guiding principles for current and future generations to live sustainably.
Many of the Kazakh and Malay proverbs focus on the human ability to use natural resources without undermining the integrity of ecosystems. They underscore the need to reduce the burden on the environment and promote sustainable living. Proverbs like “alam terkembang jadi guru”, a Malay saying meaning “nature expands to become a teacher”, and “kün ortaq, ai ortaq, jaqsy ortaq”, a Kazakh saying signifying that sun, moon, and kindness are infinite resources available for everyone, are profound reminders of our responsibility towards the environment.
Implications for the Future
The project has been well-received in the academic community, with students and colleagues expressing interest in using the zine in the British higher education context. Some are even working on their own zines, indicating the potential of this method for knowledge dissemination.
Mun and Anuar’s work underscores the immense value of traditional knowledge in addressing contemporary issues. Their project is a testament to the fact that wisdom from the past, if harnessed effectively, can help us reimagine ways of tackling current problems and pave the way for a more sustainable future.
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