‘Sangoma’ is the name given to traditional healers who play an important role within many different sections of South African society. In rural communities they are many people’s first port of call in times of need and illness. Through a combination of prayer, dance and medicine (Muti), Sangoma’s contact the ancestors for advice and prescribe natural remedies for illness, good fortune and physical improvement. To become a Sangoma is not simple. Chosen by their ancestors, the training and initiation can be long and arduous. The work is an emotional and physical commitment which, combined with western medicine, forms part of many people’s healthcare choices.
In recent years, Sangoma’s and institutions of western medicine have frequently worked together to define their separate roles and acknowledge the importance of each other within modern South African society. Sangoma’s are accepted in several denominations of the christian church, their diverse rituals and attire can be informed by their varying ethnicity and religious affiliation.