The calling came as an ache in my heart, a space that could only be filled by Africa and her people. After training for three years in a rural Zulu homeland, I graduated in a three-day ceremony as an African traditional healer, one of the only white ‘sangomas’ to have graduated in Southern Africa.
In the years that followed, my love and understanding for the Zulu people deepened and in September of 2003 I found myself travelling to West Africa, to the heart of Zulu ancestry.
Gabon is off the West coast of equatorial Africa, and is one of the only countries left with pristine rain forest. There are plants here that are of particular interest to the African herbalist.
Tabernanthe iboga is a shrub native to Gabon and is considered sacred for its magical properties. Especially interesting to me were the Bwitti ceremonies associated with the consumption of iboga. These ceremonies are seldom performed outside of Gabon and are done in a strictly religious framework.
My intention was to locate an ancient tribe living in the very hilly forest region of Ngounie. This Mitshogho’pygmy’ tribe are the forefathers of Bwitti culture and live in dense forest near turbulent rivers, making it difficult to access.
The mist was thick when the little aircraft landed in Mouila, the last airport stop on the edge of the high forest. I felt very insignificant flying in over the large expanse of jungle and landing in the forest clearing. (more…)