Mai Mai Muti Market

Mai Mai Muti Market

by Kagiso Mnisi                              Posted: 2012/06/18

Beyond the mystic of traditional African medicine

The roles of traditional healing and African mysticism are widely misunderstood. They are often dubbed as superstition by the casual observer or even outright voodoo. But surely there's more to this Centuries-old practice that the likes of Credo Mutwa have been custodians of?



These questions led us to Mai Mai Cultural Court; a hostel draped with all sorts of traditional products.  We had a chat with an Inyanga named Bheki Sibiya.





JHBLive: Sawubona buti omkhulu [good day big brother]. Tell us what the difference is between Inyanga and Isangoma.

BS: Isangoma is called up upon by Idlozi (ancestor) to go for initiation at a spiritual place for a given period. This is seen through by a spiritual adviser who teaches the initiate everything about the spiritual realm. This involves forecasts through bone throwing. As for me (an Inyanga), I was spoken to via dreams and pointed to a place where healing herbs grow. I was then taught by my ancestor known as Umbokoto to dispense these herbs to those in need.





JHBLive: Kindly explain what some of your herbs do.

BS : Take for instance Intelezi; it was used by warriors way back for courage. It diminishes fear and allows for a 'get up and do' attitude especially in times of desperation and stress. Then there is Icishamlilo which tackles ailments such as fever and hyperthermia. Umavumbuka is made from bark and gets rid of warts and chronic skin growths.





JHBLive: What of the animal skins? I see snake, leopard and crocodile?

BS :The skins are meant to lift curses, fend off evil spirits, heal anatomical ailments, accessorising and guess what? (Beaming look) Décor as well! When it comes to lifting curses, a person would have been poisoned with isidliso which makes their body react badly and things in their lives run amok. Then I as Inyanga would take a snake's skin and tie it around them in manner that suppresses the poison. I then take the snake's skull and poke the patient with the fangs to rid them of the problem. The bigger the animal, the more effective is the ritual.





JHBLive: How is the healing business?

BS: People are unhappy, we live in unhappy times. We need to get back to basics and respect our humanness. I see this when patients come in numbers, from the well-off to the impoverished, this is happening a lot lately. I even get youngsters who wear these bright clothes and appear on television (smiles). So my practice has been doing well. It is a good sign to see people embracing their culture even during times of this fast technology.





JHBLive: Any spiritual advice for JHBLive?

BS: (coughs) ayi ke ukwelapha singa ku yenza kodwa futhi kumele sibonge abaphansi kucala nsizwa [The business of healing does not come cheap]





Photos: Dirk Chalmers



Beyond the mystic of traditional African medicine


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