F is for Fanagolo Pharmaceuticals


Want bigger boobs? Want to see your enemies in the mirror and make them do the funky chicken?

Want to get a promotion or remove the black spot from your hand. The one that keeps taking away all your good luck?

Not a problem. We’ve got it covered.

sangoma 3South Africa has a thriving traditional medicine sector. These days it seems to be largely made up of refugees and immigrants from other African nations looking to make a quick buck from the infinitely gullible.

I can’t say it is any different from the array of magical vitamins you can pick off the shelf at any supermarket and pharmacy, but their advertising is certainly more entertaining.

Apparently, one of the main issues faced by men in this country is the eternal malady of good old penis envy. Every traffic light, street lamp and wall is covered in advertisements promising to rescue men from the shame and embarrassment of erectile dysfunction and stunted growth.

Last week I sat with the Sowetan newspaper’s classified section and a ruler. It seems each healer is in competition with the other and have failed to consider the effect of a metre long appendage on a man’s potential sex life.

sangoma 1Certainly I imagine it is easier to brag you aren’t getting any because you’re too big rather than admitting you’re too small.  But I can honestly say that nothing of that size is coming of poking distance of me. Ever.

Every morning I receive a small Amazon rain forest in flyers recommending various practitioners of sexual potions, lottery wins and get out of jail free cards.

sangoma 4One of my favourites offers to cure “abnormally long pregnancies”. Any woman who has ever reached the 8 month mar of pregnancy believes without a shadow of a doubt that it has gone on too long.

Yesterday’s revealed a true gem – Breast Enlagerment (sic). The perfect combination, boobs that brew beer. It’s brilliant. Genius. Men everywhere will love them.

What never fails to amuse is how a single dose of Mama Temba’s magic brew can solve any problem under the sun. It’s a lot like those travelling pharmaceutical salesmen from the 1900s –Dr Watt’s Magical Cure All Elixir.

I actually have huge belief in the powers of traditional inyangas and sangomas. It comes from having grown up among them. Inyangas are herbal healers. They have incredible knowledge of natural remedies going back probably to the dawn of time. Sangomas, are the magic workers, the men and women chosen to act as a mouthpiece for the ancestors.

I have been privileged to have spent time with a wonderful and very talented sangoma named Mr. Mseku. He was led to my mother in a dream and told to tell her his secrets and stories in order that they may be preserved for future generations. In the afternoons I would play under his chair and listen to his stories.

He was a powerful man. Small, not terribly physically impressive, but nonetheless one of those men who could walk into a room and own it.

Now as all small children are wont or not wont to do, I was not very good at remembering to brush my teeth.

One afternoon he sat with me and told me about the devils that lived in my teeth and how if I did not brush them they would eat my teeth from the inside out.

I brushed my teeth like dervish after that. Plaque and tartar meant nothing to me. Devils I could understand.

A few years back some friends of the family were visiting South Africa from the United Kingdom. During their stay on a wilderness reserve they decided to visit the local sangoma.

Crouched in the dark with the thick sweet smell of marijuana, beer and calabash, they were told to get back to their lodge and immediately call their office in the UK as their partner was trying to steal their company from them.

Doing as they were told with not a small amount of trepidation and disbelief, they discovered that this old man in Africa was quite right. They caught it just in time.

That’s the stuff that happens here. It’s a magical place, not really fairies and unicorns, but tokoloshe and spirits. If you’re living in New York or Toronto it may sound absolutely farfetched, but here, where zombie children make the front page of the newspaper, its par for the course.

These interlopers that arrive here with their badly spelt and poorly produced flyers are contributing the decimation of our local wildlife and environment as well as the destruction of our own rich traditional healing culture. Let’s not even mention the horrors they inflict upon the English language!

They take money under false pretences and peddle a brand of false hope that is at best a lie and at worse leave their customers suffering from even worse medical conditions than before.

sangoma 2They cannot cure HIV/Aids.

They can’t get you off a murder charge.

They can’t give you a dick like an anaconda or an ass like J Lo.

But if you willing to pay, they’re willing to give it a shot.

Like the bank robbers who bought a Harry Potter-esque invisibility potion and tried to walk into the vault. They were less upset about being caught and charged with attempted bank robbery than they were about the fact they had been sold a dud elixir.

A bit Emperor’s New Clothes really.

For more examples visit Eish Sangoma on WordPress

PS: I am posting this one early because apparently parents don’t get weekends and I have to take small child to an athletics day at some ungodly hour of the morning.

PPS: Great minds and all that, just posted this to find on my Reader another post on the same topic – check it out at 2Summers.

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I write because I have to. It is a compulsion. I do it to vent, to laugh and to remember. I blog because it has been so long since I had to write with a pen that my hand would go into cramp if I tried to write a journal.

6 thoughts on “F is for Fanagolo Pharmaceuticals”

  1. Oh, loved this. I was a huge believer in tribal medicines until that case a few years back (quite a few years, now I think about it) of the very successful treatments for teenage acne which – whoops – turned out to maim or kill the spot-free teens. Mercury in the muti, as best I can remember, the lucky ones had fingers / toes / hands / feet amputated and lived, the unlucky ones died.

    This does bring back memories of wading out into the sea to fill bottles with seawater before the long drive back home 🙂

  2. That was informative, hilarious and thought-provoking all in one! Enjoyed it so much, I’ll be coming back after you recover from the kiddie-sports-regime *shakes fist at crack-a$$-of-dawn games*

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