Most South Africans, regardless of their heritage, will be familiar with the word muthi, a term used to describe everything from the Panado syrup someone might give their toddler, to umlomomnandi, a root that when chewed on, blesses you with quick wit, a poetic voice and a silver tongue! The term derives from the Zulu word for tree, umuthi, presumably referencing the source of traditional medicine, much of which comes from nature. The Herb Traders Market in Warwick Junction, where you’ll find izinyanga filling ‘prescriptions’ in much the same way you would a pharmacist in a shopping centre (albeit in a very different setting, with very different ingredients) is highlighted at this year’s International Architecture Exhibition Biennale in Venice.
The Transformation of the Warwick Triangle, Durban, South Africa by Andrew Makin and Asiye eTafuleni, shows the transformation of an incomplete, neglected city highway overpass into the foundational grounds for Warwick’s traditional medicine market, initially completed in 1997. The exhibit showcases eight traders through a series of photos of their daily lives, as well as goods from the market that show the diversity of products sold: balls of lime, religious attire, mielies, calabashes, beadwork, sandals, and more. A three-dimensional model of Warwick Junction is on display and an audio recording captures the background hustle and bustle of the market – taxi horns, CD sellers blasting music, and threads of isiZulu – along with the smell of impepho, a natural incense, used by traditional healers to communicate with the deceased.
If you haven’t yet been to the Herb Traders Market at Warwick Triangle (and you’re not by chance in Venice at the moment!) take yourself down there this weekend to experience something that’s very much part of the pulse of Durban!