The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview

plained, and this kizimba in conjunction with the many others of the device will make a solitary person seem as though many. "If you are alone and someone comes to test (kupima) the strength of his medicines against the strength of yours [as sorcerers do in trying to conquer even the hardiest of practioners], they will see that in your medicines many things are mixed, each and every quality or meaning." In other words, the solitude of the kapondo's source is put to use, to make hunted animals bereft of direction or wiles, or to thwart aggressive sorcerers by having "solitude" under control and "closed" within one's amulet.

There are other, less salubrious uses. As Nzwiba explained,

Now these vizimba that they go and take from your fellow man, ah we see this tends to be sorcery. For they take the kizimba from that one who has died, and they invoke it: "Now, you kizimba, I want so-and-so to be killed." So it is certain that afterwards he will die, the kizimba will agree that the person will die. . . . For instance, if he had taken a kapondo kizimba, a bone or something of someone who has died, he puts this with other medicines and begins to invoke there, saying, "This man has not done right by me, I want him to die the same way you died," then won't he die? Because he has prayed to the person who has already died to do this, he [the victim] will die or have another kind of accident. . . . because the one who died agrees to the business for which it has been called. 13

Any of these uses may be deemed sorcery, depending upon the situation. Hunters are said to ensorcell (kuloga) their game, and amulets like mwanzambale are considered to be protective by their possessors, but offensive by critics. The absurdity of kapondo -- its meaning (maana) as a constituent of medicines -- is brought to bear on animal or human targets, plucking them from their apparent destinies and assuring them another fate they desire less, yet one which allows the greater community to continue in restored harmony. Individuals who possess and deploy kapondo are intervening in the course of events, and such hubris must always have its detractors as well as its supporters among those denied and gaining advantage, respectively. The hubristic, in turn, are of society but not altogether in society. Like the hyena, they are masters of transformation and transition, necessary yet dread.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Four years' anthropological fieldwork was undertaken from late 1973 to late 1977 with financial support from the National Institute of Mental Health (no. F01-5525101-CUAN), the Committee on African Studies and the Edson-Keith Fund of the University of Chicago, and the Society of the Sigma Xi. A first draft of this paper, entitled " Kapondo: The Use of Potitical Synecdoche in Tabwa Traditional Medicine, was prepared for the Sovereignty, Sickness and Health in Africa panel of the 1981 African Studies Association meetings, chaired by Randall Packard. As this work has evolved, helpful comments have been received from J. Knight, O. Kokole,

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