Scientifically based medicine has accumulated a great amount of knowledge about the causes of ailments and their cures. Against this background, traditional healers and their practices appear as a mainstay of the grossest darkness, which holds the human mind. This study by Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta and Tabi Chama-James Tabenyang shows that in spite of this assumption, there is good reason to investigate the often surprising effectiveness of traditional healing.
The study reveals that the traditional healer undergoes an initiation into the healing practices through experiencing the destructive force of sickness and the redeeming effect of healing in a religious frame of thought. In this context, healing appears as the application of natural means against supernatural forces. In such a context, sickness is more than merely an ailment: it is the incapacitated personality. Thus healing is redeeming rather than curing. The healer, his medicine and the patient belong to a closed system of thought. Traditional healing is the operation of that system. This particular orientation makes traditional healing effective, sometimes even more effective than scientific medicine as in the case of “African” sicknesses.
In a certain sense, sicknesses and their cures are culturally conditioned. This situation is part of a person’s self- understanding. Thus it is certainly an anthropological issue to investigate the condition of traditional healers and their medicines. It is an investigation of practical concern for the scientifically based physician.
The manuscript itself focusses on the role of traditional medicine in an era of predominantly bio-medical research. It is a commendable attempt to fill in the knowledge gaps created by colonial parlances and inconsistencies.
The fact that this work has been done by persons who understand the cultural nuances and intricacies of local communities gives it some freshness and a depth that might not otherwise have been possible. The work is characterized by the use of such primary sources as traditional healers, bio-medical practitioners, observers and patients. Their words and their strong emotions in relation to the process of healing, impart to the reader, a sense that he /she is actually there. In this sense, an analytic reader may be inclined to view traditional healing as a community resource.
This work is highly commendable.
Prof. C.M. Lamla
School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Walter Sisulu University, Mthatha, Eastern Cape