'Working with spirit': Experiencing Izingoma healing in contemporary South Africa
Author: Jo Wreford
Publisher: Berghahn Books
Abstract: In the current model of health dispensation in South Africa there are two major paradigms, the spirit-inspired tradition of izangoma sinyanga and biomedicine. These operate at best in parallel, but more often than not are at odds with one another. This book, based on the author’s personal experience as a practitioner of traditional African medicine, considers the effects of the absence of spirit in biomedicine on collaborative relationships. Given the unprecedented challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, the author suggests that more cooperation is vital. Taking a critical look at the role of anthropology in this endeavor, she proposes the development of a “language of spirit” by means of which the spirit-inspired aetiology of izangoma sinyanga may be made comprehensible to academic scientists and applicable to medical interventions. The author discusses white izangoma in the context of current debates on healing and hybridity and insists that there exists a powerful role for izangoma in the realm of societal healing. Above all, the book constitutes a start in what the author hopes will develop into an ongoing intellectual conversation between traditional African healing, academe, and biomedicine in South Africa. Jo Thobeka Wreford accepted a community architectural post in Zimbabwe in 1992, where she met the Xhosa healer with whom, in 2001, she graduated as a sangoma. She now divides her time between her healing practice and research in sangoma and HIV/AIDS at the University of Cape Town. In 2004 she was awarded a Research Scholarship with the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU), Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR) at the University of Cape Town.