Demographic characteristics associated with Isinuka Traditional Spa near Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa
Curortology – the science of natural therapy that combines the effects of climate, water and mud treatment and other forms of traditional healing practices – is enjoying a phenomenal comeback. Behind the re-emergence of curortology lies the current popular revolt against synthetic products and the demand for more natural ways of treatment, especially for rheumatoid arthritis, for which there is no effective synthetic treatment. The comeback of curortology is greatly aided by advances in science, which shed much light on the healing properties of clays. In its current form, curortology has evolved to encompass holiday spas, day spas, hotel spas, all of which are seen as European. At the same time, indigenous African approaches, though widespread, have not evolved and have largely remained underdeveloped and undocumented. This has far reaching economic consequences, as exemplified by the traditional spa at Isinuka; though in existence for hundreds of years, this spa has little infrastructure and remains very poor. The current off-sales of Isinuka clay are about R7,00 per bag of approximately 2kg, while retail price of cleansing mud masks in pharmacies reaches R16,00 per 25g packet. Monthly returns from Isinuka sales range from only R350,00 to R500,00. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Isinuka and locals from Port St. Johns, and villages and towns beyond, revere this healing system as holistic and handed down by their ancestors. While we should remain sensitive to, and respect the culture of the people, there is an urgent need to educate and train them to add value to their natural products, and improve their way of life.
Keywords: Isinuka spring, clay, healing water, visitors, income, inhaling gases.