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Indilinga: African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems

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Diagnostic practices of izangoma in Durban, South Africa

W Ogana

Abstract


This article seeks to interrogate the value of divination as a diagnostic tool of izangoma (diviners), who are at the apex of the hierarchy of African traditional healers in South Africa. While some of the divination methods used by izangoma are dismissed as ‘unscientific’ by sceptics, the techniques cannot be wished away since they are still in demand. Referrals between African and conventional healers are requested on a regular basis, with each set of practitioners recognizing strengths and limitations in handling certain conditions. In the interest of patients who choose to frequent both health care systems, there is need nevertheless, to understand what appears inexplicable in divination. To this end the article will firstly situate African traditional medicine (ATM) in historical perspective concerning its low status pitted against the dominant conventional medicine. Next, the article will delve into the intricacies of the various diagnostic methods applied by izangoma. Thirdly, the article will highlight some of the challenges posed by the diagnostic methods under discussion.

Keywords: Izangoma, divination, diagnostic practices, African traditional medicine, conventional healers.




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