SPIRITS OF AFRICA

THE PEDI : the mixture of Dr. Matsutha

 

The Letaba region is an area of mountains and forests with high passes and deep ravines. We went there to see Dr. Matsutha, one of the most famous sangoma’s of the Pedi people. This nation is related to the Sotho and the Zulu peoples. 
A number of people were waiting outside Matsutha’s house when we arrived, some from far away. Dr. Matsutha has inherited his healing gifts from his father and his grandfather, who taught him. He is not only a healer but also a business man. He was the first sangoma I ever visited who owned a car, in fact, he had two shiny new ones in the garage of his very large house.

 

Dr Matsutha

 

When we arrived he had just shown two women, a mother and a daughter, into the room where he treats his patients. We were present at their entire treatment session, which lasted the whole morning. Both suffered from vomiting blood, headache and weakness. Matsutha threw the divining bones to determine their problem. He decided that an evil spirit had to be driven out. He collected a number of herbs and minerals from his large storeroom and mixed them. We went outside into the cold and rainy morning. As we walked he showed us a number of medicinal plants he had planted in his garden.

 

medicinal herb

 

He complained that these plants are now becoming extinct in the wild because of the growing population. In the backyard a large pot of water was boiling. He told the women to strip to the waist. I just kept on filming, nobody seemed to mind. Matsutha threw his mixture into the boiling water, which turned red and started to give off strong vapours. He tore two leafy branches off a tree, dipped them into the boiling mixture and to my surprise started to whip the women with it. The water was very hot and they screamed, steam was everywhere. The mother wanted to run away but he held her by her wrist

 

after the boiling water treatment

 

We went back inside, I asked the women how they felt and they said they were already much better. Matsutha started making small cuts in their skin at specific places on their bodies with a razor. He rubbed a special ointment into the cuts. Then, he said a number of sacred texts to ensure the healing process. Finally, the two women went away much relieved. We spent much of the day with Dr. Matsutha while he saw other patients and told us about his life. We ended with a long interview in which he gave his views about the role of sangomas in modern Africa.

photo's by Lex Harding

 

some of the doctor's herbs

 

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