What Can we Learn from Traditional Healers’ ads?

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— By James from Kenya

Walking in the streets and on the roads of Kenyan cities, towns and even small shopping centers, you are likely to find so many posters pasted everywhere advertising different things. This period of time, being an election season, the most common will be posters of different politicians promising heaven to the mwananchi, the citizen. But on a closer examination, you will discover a rather curious category of these posters. These are posters from waganga wa kienyeji, traditional healers. This is the gist of this article.

I can’t say for sure when these waganga wa kienyeji, traditional healers, started advertising their services publicly, but I am sure there is no city, town, or shopping center in Kenya that you will miss these posters. They seem to occupy any clearly visible point. Their major spots are the electric poles, street lamp poles (the few that are available), walls, pavements and on flower pots (particularly in Nairobi). Note that they don’t bear any official stamp of any respective administrative authority.

The content of the posters, mainly on cheaply designed black and white A4 papers, is the name of the healer, an introductory line saying, “Helps in:” followed by a list of burdens the healer lifts from people. Some healers write their messages on rectangular pieces of plywood, I guess for durability, then nail them especially on electric poles just above the danger warning from the electricity company.

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A poster in Nairobi CBD. The Healer can help in Love matters, business, men’s libido, lost items, and quick money.

The healers’ places of origin are all curiously superstitious and stereotypical. Every region (at least in Africa) has those places that are “respected” for witchcraft. In East Africa we have Sumbawanga (Tanzania) and Kitui (Kenya). The coastal cities of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) Mombasa (Kenya) are also mentioned highly maybe due to the belief that these regions are frequented by jinns. Therefore, most of these healers claim to come from one of these regions.

And what do they heal? An assortment of “ailments”.

Among the five healers that I sampled, their services are in the areas of love matters, business issues, identifying a thief, homestead protection (certainly against witchcraft), Men’s libido, court cases (to be ruled in your favuor), increasing riches, treating madness, providing magic rings (hope not from the land of Mordor), TB, epilepsy, impotence, promotion at work places, charms for body protection, and least of them, women’s libido.

One Dr Muhamed, whose posters are all over Nairobi CBD, can help you in the following areas: Love, Business, men libido, returning anything lost and quick money. Meanwhile, Dr. Eru, whose posters compete for same spaces with Dr. Muhamed’s, can help you in: Lost lover, lost items, family affairs, marriage, riches, business boosting and men’s libido. Dr. Rashid on the other hand advertises in Karen, Nairobi. If you need anything on love, business, identifying a thief and homestead protection, then he (or is it a she?), is the person to see.

Four hundred kilometers west of Nairobi, the towns of Rongo and Nyabohanse are not left behind. They receive these services. Although all traditional healers seem to read from the same script, the one in Rongo is a step further because he can help you get the coveted Green Card and Visa to the US. In Nyabohanse, though there are several advertisers, one deserves to be mentioned here. The healer is the only one I noted that helps in women’s libido.

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A traditional healer’s notice at Nyabohanse town, Migori County. Among other things, the healer can increase women’s libido.

These cases set me thinking. Where are the adverts prevalent? Among the poor or among the rich? A spot check in Nairobi’s upper middle/upper class residential areas of Lavington, Kileleshwa, Kyuna, Karen and Spring Valley as well as slum areas like Kibera and Kayole bear these adverts. Nairobi CBD that experiences people of all walks of life bears them too. So I am at difficulties to ascertain the main target of these services.

Another thought that passes my mind whenever I see these services advertised so aggressively is the gravity of the issues advertised. It pays to mention that cure for men’s libido is the most frequently mentioned followed by love and third comes business. Can this be used to draw a conclusion that libido is a serious concern in the Kenyan society than even the want for money?

Should the trend worry the nation?

The Power of Light and Love

francis

— By Francis from Sierra Leone

Holidays always seem to mean a lot to women and they certainly do to my nan, Cecilia. This is a time for giving gifts and shopping. Numberless of trinkets – ranging from booklets, bracelets, and bowls to charm are distributed. For her, the giving of gifts is a personal task, “an opportunity for engraving my spirit on the minds and hearts of my people.” Shopping for both these gifts and household goods, she stresses not fashion but durability and price. Shoes are bought for more days of wear in every pair.

Surely, this is a very special time of the year. In schools, children grow excited at the prospect of what is to come. Stores are jammed with shoppers, streets explode with light and messages of good-will abound. Even when people say hello to each other, there’s a special feeling in it; a bright and warm feeling that pervades our days.

Yes, we are at a very special time, indeed! And the question of what fills our cold winter days with such light and warmth is unavoidable.

For some of us it is Christmas, and for some of us it is Chanukah. Whatever the holiday, the feeling goes beyond any religious boundary and unites us all in a feeling of affection for each other.

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is called the “Festival of Lights” – a candle is lit at night for seven nights to commemorate a miracle of light. The Christian holiday of Christmas has been called a “Fest of Love” – It commemorates the birth of Jesus, who has been called the Prince of Love.

With these, we have a combination of the feast of Light and Love; two qualities that should fill the world and the world becomes a better place for it.

What a need there is for both then. The world is filled with corners of darkness where lurk the demons of ignorance and prejudice and hate. These are corners where the light of knowledge and truth has not yet reached. What a bright and happy world we could have if the light of learning is brought to every crevice.

Each day we read, see and/ hear the tragedies that hate and fear bring about – horrors perpetrated in hate which destroys, tears down and mutilates. What a need there is for love. What a change there would be if we could reach each mind twisted by hate and replace that hate with love.

Light and Love; Love and Light – in combination, what wonders could they not produce? They could build a world where kindness would be the rule, concern for each other would be a part of daily life, and individuals would grow and thrive and contribute and find happiness and compassion.

If, for this one time of the year our lives can be filled with happiness and warmth and a spirit of giving – a spirit of light and love – then surely we can work at making it last throughout the year as well. Let’s have the courage to believe that this is not a dream; not a fantasy. Let’s us believe that it is a possibility within our grasp.

What a world THAT would be!