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image and text by
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

In a photo studio in Philipi, a township in the Eastern Cape, three women have come to commission a graduation picture. Bulolna, Sindiswa and Poneiwa have just qualified as traditional healers, or Nyangas. Until recently, their graduation ceremony would have been illegal: Nyangas were banned under the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1970. But now they outnumber doctors of western medicine 800 to one.

Sindiswa, on the right: Becoming a Nyanga is a calling. It happened to me by falling ill. I went for help and I discovered that I wasn’t ill, I was experiencing a calling to become a Nyanga. These days we are more recognised as healers. There are even moments when we come together with doctors and discuss cases. Sometimes now we are called to hospitals to help with cases that they feel they cannot deal with. There was never this level of respect for us under the old government. There are things in everyone’s body that need assistance from western medicine, and there are things that only traditional healers can cope with. Together we are a powerful healing force. We work differently to others though. I cannot just help anyone, I need to feel it in my heart and then I can really help.