Traditional medicine has a long and rich history in South Africa and, like other facets of South Africa’s cultural landscape, has had to grow and change with the times. Sangomas – known elsewhere in the world as spiritual healers or diviners – are still widely employed. They fulfill different social and even political roles, performing physical and spiritual healing rituals while also narrating history, cosmology and the myths of their traditions.
Sangomas are thought to have arrived in South Africa from Kenya and Mozambique during the western Bantu migration, which took place as long ago as 2000 BCE. Since then, sangomas’ practices have evolved along with the needs of the people who rely on them. For example, sangomas played a role in helping people deal with the violence of the apartheid years in South Africa.