Living in two worlds

2011-06-08 00:00

ELLIOT Ndlovu is a local living legend, and here Melanie Reeder does an admirable job of recounting his time of uthwasa (madness) and his journey to becoming a sangoma and conservationist.

Walking between the worlds of the living and the ancestors is the blessing and burden of Elliot Ndlovu.

His calling is evident from childhood, and being constantly communicated with by those who have passed on disrupts his life, until he accepts his destiny.

Ndlovu is well known for his association with Fordoun Hotel and Spa, where he consults with the rich and famous, but he returns daily to his first consulting hut in rural Thendela, the place of his ancestors. The themes of duality, sanity in madness, success in poverty, fame in a rural setting and walking between the world of the living and the ancestors run through the story. Sangomas pass on knowledge of traditional remedies and Ndlovu has influenced the lives of many people who have assisted him, learnt from him and sought his help in desperate times.

The book is structured in chapters named for the various elements in ­Ndlovu’s bag of “bones” that are used in consultation with clients, linking his history to the meaning of each.

The various elements represent children, hardships, presence of the ancestors, career, danger, insecurity, addictions, envy, good or bad fortune, resilience, finances, and one’s guardian angel , and their meaning is interpreted based on where they appear in a reading.

Conservation of traditional plants is one of his legacies, as he pioneered the planting of traditional gardens instead of harvesting in an unsustainable manner.

Guardianship of traditional medicine, and of preserving natural heritage is one of Ndlovu’s roles, as he links the modern world with the ancient traditions.

This is a fascinating look at an enigmatic man, who has met royalty and movie stars, travelled widely, and lives successfully between two worlds.

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