Moving With the Times

Nokulinda Mkhize
Nokulinda Mkhize

If I ask you to imagine what an African healer looks like you probably have a very definite image in mind, one of a slightly older rural woman, wearing traditional clothes, and carrying a bag of bones wrapped around her wrist, but the world is changing, and along with it comes a new breed of sangomas – women (and men) who communicate with their clients over WhatsApp and hold consultations via Skype. Just google ‘sangoma + WhatsApp’ and you’ll be amazed at what you see – I was!

Nokulinda Mkhize is one such healer who practices the art of bone throwing through her website [website no longer available]. She only deals with clients on the phone or over Skype. When asked on a recent radio interview how a client can blow on the bones before she throws them, she laughed and explained that no one blows on her bones, except for her. They are a very important part of the work she does, and for the most part Nokulinda is working very much in the way that her ancestors have. You just wouldn’t know it to look at her.

As is the case of Thabiso Siswana, an iSangoma who comes from a family of healers, with her mother and both of her sisters working ‘in the business’. But Thabiso also works as an administrator for a large bank, so bar one or two giveaway signs, she really doesn’t look the way we imagine a sangoma to look. Thabiso marries her corporate attire with an impande around her neck, a necklace of small blue, black and white beads representing the colours of the sangoma school that she belongs to, and an isiphandla around her left wrist, a piece of goat skin that she received during her initiation.

So it seems, as with everyone else in modern life, traditional medicine is moving with the times. One advantage is immediate gratification – if you need the services of an iSangoma you need only pick up your smartphone and help is but a Skype call away!

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