A Photo Series Breaking Down the Misconceptions of Contemporary Traditional Healers


Young photographer Alice Mann, shot this portrait series focusing on traditional healers in South Africa, otherwise referred to as Izangoma or iZinyanga.

In contextualizing the narrative of her photo series, Alice explains, "Western media might often use the collective term ‘witch doctors’, in doing so they are guilty of perpetuating various misconceptions about traditional healers in contemporary African society. Visual representations of them vary, but generally do not suggest any sense of modern life or respected practice.

A popular claim, originally made by the World Health Organisation (WHO), yet rarely substantiated, is that up to 80 percent of Africans still rely on traditional healers as their first point of contact for physical and psychological ailments."

Alice goes on to further say that, "the reality in many African cities is that these traditional practices have actually become seamlessly fused with modern and contemporary lifestyles. Many view traditional healers as a novel way to connect with their culture and ancestors rather than a substitute for modern medicine. In this way traditional healers are understood to compliment and promote modern ideals of health and wellness. Many of the healers I worked with are practicing Christians who maintain a strong bond with their ancestors, approaching them for guidance and advice on various issues. All of them work modern jobs in South Africa’s major city centres, one woman is a journalist and another works as a corporate administrator in a large bank.''

On the what influenced the portrait series, she says, "I wanted to capture this eclectic fusion of modern and traditional, as an authentic representation of contemporary African society not often shown or understood by western media."

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