Exclusive Books launches A Sangoma's Story

Exclusive Books launches <i>A Sangoma’s Story</i>
Melanie Reeder and Elliot Ndlovu were surrounded by interested parties at the launch of Reeder’s book, A Sangoma’s Story, which tells the story of Ndlovu’s journey to follow his ancestors’ call to become a traditional healer. But what makes a young white woman like Reeder write a book about a sangoma?

Reeder, who spent three years working on the project, says Ndlovu made a huge impression on her, teaching her the African principle of uBuntu. “To give his voice a platform is something I had to do.” Ndlovu, in turn, said that he felt he needed to share his journey as a traditional healer – isangoma, and herbalist – inyanga.

Guests at the launch, hosted by Exclusive Books, Hyde Park on 29 March. Both Reeder and Ndlovu were involved in the mingling that took place in the foyer before the official launch and signing took place.

Jon Bates was well-suited to introduce Ndlovu to the captivated crowd as he had known him for years. Ndlovu is quite a character and stands out for his ability to marry the traditional with the modern – he practices both in his room in the rural village of Thendela as well as at the luxury Fordoun Hotel Spa - both in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Ndlovu is also actively involved in preserving indigenous plants that are under threat due to the booming traditional medicine industry, which Bates said is at an estimated R2.9-billion annually. Many indigenous plants are being plundered by inyangas, or at least, those pretending to be. For this reason, Ndlovu - in partnership with Bates, the owner of Fordoun Hotel Spa – grows his own herbs sustainably.

When he took to the podium to address the guests, Ndlovu stressed the importance of herbs as a source of healing, making it clear that it upsets him that some false practitioners use animal and human body parts. He said that the opportunity to set the record straight was one of the main reasons he decided to collaborate with Reeder in writing the book. Ndlovu, affectionately known as Maluleka, which means ‘one who counsels and advises others’, says there is a lot of misconception about what a sangoma does and that the practice is often mistaken for witchcraft.

Because traditional healing and the calling is often a closely guarded secret amongst the practitioners, we asked him whether he received any backlash for revealing secrets about the tradition. Ndlovu says none of his fellow traditional healers have said anything bad or negative to him about going into the territory in which traditionally people would not be allowed the opportunity to understand the workings.

Ndlovu wanted to dismiss the myth that anybody can become a sangoma. He says only people with the calling and who answer the calling can become traditional healers. Making it clear that he is no ‘tourist attraction’ and his story is not ‘fiction’, Ndlovu told the audience that he went through a lot before he became the respected traditional healer he is today. Reading snippets from the book, Ndlovu told us of how he spent five hours under water as one of the rituals before qualifying as a sangoma.

He spoke with passion about his profession and the value it adds to people’s lives and how he sees it growing to impact and benefit more people in the future. Having met the Queen of England and thrown bones for the 2007 Oscar nominees, no-one can challenge Ndlovu when he says that he is a ‘top’ isangoma.

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