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They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where The Mdantsane Doctors (and many others) Shop - Ma's Traditional Pharmacy

A traditional doctor has to buy the supplies for his practice like any other doctor. Many of the plants and herbs used for the traditional remedies come from the remote, rural areas of Southern Africa. People who know about the areas where the plants grow, collect and sell them to suppliers or pharmacies, that in turn serve as wholesalers for the traditional practitioners.

The location of the plants is often kept a secret.
A traditional pharmacy in North End, East London owned by the same family for two decades

One pharmacy, that has a long standing reputation for selling a wide range of traditional supplies is situated in an area called "North End" in East London. 

The North End is also the home of a vibrant, colorful shopping complex, the Indian Plaza and it is the place said to be the location, where the first inhabitants of Mdantsane were removed from to be settled in NU 1 in Mdantsane in the 1960's. 

Come inside

Come inside! The pharmacy sells to individuals as well as to herbalists and sangomas. A look through the wide open doors tells you, that you are likely to find your potion here. 

Many holistic healers from Mdantsane come to this pharmacy, that has been handed down from father to daughter, to buy their supplies.

Every condition is treatable if you know the right remedy - an old painting crowns the wall in Ma's traditional pharmacy

When entering the pharmacy your eyes are drawn to an old painting of a sad looking young black boy on the wall. It is rather dim inside the shop and the light reflects on the many glass jars.

Holistic healing has gained much attention during the last decade. Basically in every country of this world, there are doctors who have trained at a formal university and have a classical medical education based on scientific principles, but they are turning now to holistic healing, be it by either partly integrating certain methods and cures into their practice or by adopting a completely new philosophy.

Potions, powders and lotions, that do not only treat the body but the soul and mind as well

If you look around and you understand the Xhosa language, you will be able to understand in a very graphical way how many evils are plaguing humanity and the human soul since centuries. Each jar is labeled with an evil, that is treatable.

Holistic healing is based on the principle, that every evil, be it physical or spiritual can be cured. For this, the help of the ancestors is necessary. The traditional healers and diviners can establish this connection with your ancestors for you
Like many Eastern philosophies, holistic healing in the African tradition recognizes the unity of mind, spirit and body. If one of the three is not well, the other two are affected as well.

Neatly aligned glasses with all sorts of remedies in the shelves

There is a great number of glass jars, neatly aligned on the shelves, some of them containing ingredients, that might scare westerners and shake their perception of treating the ill.

There is a "Tokoloshe Salt"on the shelf and Ma, the owner of the shop can explain you all about it.

Tokoloshe or Hili (from the Xhosa word utyreeci ukujamaal) are dwarf-like water creatures or spirits. 

It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit, that can become invisible by swallowing a pebble. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. 
At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.

"Ma" with her coffee and newspaper in her shop

I must just call her Ma, she says, like all her costumers.
Ma started helping her father about ten years ago in the pharmacy. She likes to have her coffee close to the window from where she can observe the busy street.

I took over from my father, it's a family business and you have to know the local languages

"We come originally from the Transkei, she says, it is a family business and I got involved about a decade ago when my father was aging and I started to help him out. Then I learned all about the plants and herbs".

Skins are used in traditional healing as much as any other product

"You have to know the local language, not only one of them but more is to your advantage. You can not do this without speaking the language because everything is about traditional, local secret knowledge".

We are down in stock, Ma says, we are waiting for new supply

"Our supplies come from the remote, rural areas and we can only wait. We are very down in stock now. I have to turn people away. We order with our suppliers, but even we, who have been involved in this business for such a long time, we do not know all the areas where the plants come from, Ma explains."

For each and every evil a remedy

"We mix our own lotions and remedies and some of them are very popular. People with cancer have been healed, just by drinking our medicine. But you also have to believe in that you will receive help by drinking our potions".

A painting of a Xhosa woman in the shop - of unknown origin

When she is saying this, it becomes clear again, that this is the crucial factor in every kind of treatment and healing process. Have faith, that you will be healed!

Plastic bowls with  "Ma's" handmade mixture

Large plastic bowls are filled with things, that the untrained eye really cannot identify.

Different colors for different reasons

And while we are in the pharmacy we realize there is one costumer after the other, coming in, speaking to Ma's helpers, leaving again with something. There is this quiet, but steady flow of movement in the shop.

A mixture of many different things

A mounted baboon skull watching over the shop

There are skins and plants hanging from the roof, there is the smell of soap and something not so good, there are old radios and trophies, there are skulls and worms and substances, that can not be identified anymore. But there are also old paintings and artefacts, that belong rather in an antiques shop.

One of  Ma's helpers is waiting for costumers

"The business goes well now, she says, costumers know us, but like with any other business it takes time. You have to get a name first and people have to get to know and trust you. There is no secret to this. If you are not willing to work for a business, there is no remedy for that".

Part of an animal waiting for a costumer

Things are sitting next to each other on the shelves that have no real connection in life

Ma is taking over this important costumer

And people not only from Mdantsane but from further away come to buy at Ma's shop. 
A Sangoma from King Williams town just came through the door and he hands Ma his list. She is the only on who knows everything, her helper says. And she takes over now this costumer because the list is long and complicated.

Watching Ma

Horns and Skulls are used in Healing

A sangoma from King Williams Towns travels 60 km one way to get his supplies

Willing to give us a short interview

He said he came to town to do photos for his identification document.
There are changes now and traditional healers have to be registered in South Africa.

Newly taken photos of him in his traditional attire for his certification document, that all traditional healers have to have now in South Africa

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