Are SA millennials embracing traditional healing?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Ten years ago, it would've been a rare thing to find a traditional healer on social media. Now there are numerous healers on Twitter, Facebook, and on Youtube with advice and tips on African spirituality and traditional healing. More and more millennials are embracing this aspect of being African, with some who see the need to decolonise the way we treat medical issues like mental illness

In an article for Sunday World, 28-year-old Tiisetso Makhubedu proudly embraces his calling as a traditional healer and "helping people practice their cultural traditions on African soil"; and he is not the only one. Now, more than ever, people are beginning to consider Afrocentric ways of dealing with medical issues - physical and mental - and they are finding ways to balance both the conventional and the traditional. 

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Nompumelelo Prudence Kubeka is the embodiment of what it is like to be a millennial in a scope of traditionalism. She is a clinical psychologist and, though she is currently not practicing as one, she is a traditional healer as well. Her spiritual name is Gogo Dlozi and it's been four years since she graduated in traditional healing and clinical psychology.

As both a psychologist and a traditional healer, she has found that often her professions interlink. "A person might come to me and say ‘I have a mental illness and I know I need to go for this process [of becoming a traditional healer]’ and I will ask them why they think so; what signs they’ve seen," Nompumelelo explains, expressing that a psychology consultation is treated differently from a traditional one. "In other times, when people come to my traditional healing practice, I can still say to them ‘maybe this is a mental illness, perhaps you should go to the hospital’." 

With African culture, the first response to mental illness - which is usually believed to stem from spiritual complications - is for the patient to train towards traditional healing, but sometimes, as Nompumelelo says, it is simply a medical issue and the patient needs to consult a psychiatrist, doctor or therapist. 

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"With black people, mental illness didn't exist. It was a 'white' illness for quite a long time. But now we're getting to know this," Nompumelelo says. She suggests that people need to be more educated about mental illnesses so that they can be understood from a traditionalist perspective and treated accordingly. "It's just matter of having them work hand-in-hand," she advises; having developed a skill of harnessing both aspects of her gifts. 

Regarding whether or not millennials are actually embracing traditional healing and African spirituality, Nompumelelo believes that the acceptance of this aspect of being African differs between individuals. "Now you see on social media where there are traditional healers that post about their rituals and it’s quite nice to see. And you can even say out loud that you are a traditional healer without being judged," she says. The presence of traditional healers on social media is one thing that enables millennials to talk about, be introduced to, and embrace the culture of traditional healing. 

The exposure to and belief in traditional healing still depends on what kind of environment a person was raised in, and whether or not their families believe in African spirituality and religion, Nompumelelo notes. However, "with the influence of social media and all that, people are speaking about these things. It’s about decolonisation of beliefs and bringing it back to the African belief and the African religion." 

What is your stance on traditional healing in our modern society? Would you try it? Email us your opinion or story 

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