The Africa Journals
The medicine Man
The art of healing comes from nature and not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature with an open mind.—Paracelsus
I can still feel the leathery, mud-caked elephant ear and the coarse black cheetah hair on my hand as we board up and leave the Wild Horizons Elephant Safari site. I can also feel the additional weight of the souvenirs now packed in the purple sling bag I carry when traveling. This place would turn out to have the nicest gift shop of the trip.
Wrapped carefully in newspaper are a hand-painted ironwood candle holder and three candles, also hand-painted, from Swaziland. They are a thank you gift for Julie, my house/parrot-sitter. Emily’s “autograph” is rolled up into a cardboard tube for safe-keeping.
A short distance down the highway, at the sign, we again turn onto a dirt road. We pass huts and tended fields.
|The sign reads "To Mpisi village."|
I knew we were going to see a traditional healer on this trip. I knew better than to think he or she would be in African dress, piercings with bones stuck through them, facial paintings, and wearing dreads. Didn't I? Well, I could hope.
The road becomes more primitive, winding through the bushveld, then opens onto a fair-sized compound.
|The effusive, gregarious Chief Mpisi.|
This is the home of Mpisi Melusi Ndlovu, chief of the village, who greets us wearing jeans and a bright blue shirt that looks like an Hawaiian aloha shirt, right down to the Hawaiian state flower, the hibiscus. When I get closer, I see the writing on the shirt is “South Pole.”
|Carol is sitting in a clever chair made of two pieces.|
Mpisi is a distinguished medicine man, an herbal healer. He guides us to his lapa (meeting place) and talks about his village and traditional healing. I’m seated quite far away from him and can’t hear much of what he says. My attention is focused on a young man sitting with his back to us, adding touches to a painting of a zebra’s eye. I really can't see anything changing in the painting.
|A handbag made of two 33-1/3 RPM records.|
Chief Mpisi is well-known in the field of herbal medicine. He often consults with major drug companies about herbal cures, but he also fights drug companies that attempt to patent traditional African herbal medicines. He has never attended school, but PhD students come to learn from him, and the Red Cross flew him to Harare to fight the cholera outbreak of 2009. He has worked in the U.S. on cancer cures, but turned down an offer from a major pharmaceutical company and returned to Zimbabwe.
Mpisi is a charming, charismatic man and loves to talk with visitors. He shows us around the compound, which is surrounded by fields where he and his family grow millet, sorghum, nuts, and pumpkin, and the important corn.
Some of the huts are square; others are round. The round ones, he explains, are so snakes can find their way out. In square huts, the snake will reach a corner and stop.
In one of those huts, a woman stirs a huge pot of pap over an open fire.
We are invited to look inside his home and office.
A solitary calf is being weaned in a kraal.
We leave Mr. Mpisi’s village and return to the hotel before our next adventure. I’m still smiling about this famous, respected healer wearing an aloha shirt that says “South Pole,” standing in a village of mud huts while greeting tourists from America. If this whole thing isn’t the epitome of culture clash, I certainly won't recognize what is.