Connecting with the people of Limpopo

Story and photos by Louise de Waal

Mokgadi Rasekgokga’s consulting room is a bare breeze block building with one small window and a door. Reed mats on the floor to sit on and her healing objects arranged along two walls. This beautiful soul, wearing a threadbare dress and her wrists covered with makunda (Venda bracelets), sits barefoot on the floor. We join her after she consults her ancestors for permission to meet us. They readily comply.

traditional healer
traditional healing

Mokgadi explains she has three spirit guides, one female and two male ancestors. The female spirit is the most vocal and often speaks on behalf of her male spirits, so it seems that the spirit world is not dissimilar to life on earth.

As a Nyaka (traditional healer), she collects herbs and bark in the veld. She dries, grinds and sieves them to fine powders and stores these in empty jars. The powders are various shades of brown and all look exactly the same to me, but there is order in this ostensible chaos. The jars are divided into powders that need to be ingested, those to be rubbed on the skin or wounds, and powders to be used for bathing.

traditional healing

The bones, which she throws and reads when diagnosing a patient and communicating with her ancestors, appear to be a random collection of shells, bones, dice, coins, and semi-precious stones. Mokgadi says however that these “are carefully chosen with help of my spirits. The bones help me to uncover the problem(s) that requires attention.” This is a tradition that has deep roots in the Mopedi and also Venda cultures.

traditional healing
traditional healing bones

“After every consultation I feel energised”, says Mokgadi. “However, once I made a terrible mistake in my diagnosis and all my spirits appeared at the same time giving me a hard time. I was ill for nearly six weeks and barely able to eat. It was terrible.”

All through our visit, Mokgadi listens intently and patiently answers the endless questions this inherent scientist throws at her. Even though we come from opposite ends of the spectrum, she recognises my queries as genuine and coming from a sincere place to learn more about the people’s traditions of this nation I love so dearly.

traditional healer

Experience this on our 9 day safari and cultural itinerary.

Visit Limpopo: 9 Day Safari & Cultural Experience

Cost: Available on request

Starting in Phalaborwa, the itinerary takes guests to Mtomeni Safari Camp in Letaba Ranch, Modjadji Camp in the Cycad Reserve, Fundudzi Camp at the foot of the Luaname Mountains and Baleni Camp, well known for its salt makers and natural hot-spring. Read More