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The book is written by Ashforth Adams and published by the University of Chicago Press. The book is narrated with a journalistic tone by Adams and the setting is done in the new South Africa. The story is written after South Africa gained democracy and apartheid system falls. He is an Australian lecture but happens to travel to South Africa for vacation frequently and has friends like Madumo whom he met first during one of his vacations in South Africa.
Madumo on the other hand is a young man living in Soweto but has hopes of joining the university. His mother dies and his younger brother accuses him for their mothers’ death after been told by a prophet of the Zion Christian church that Madumo murdered their mother using witchcraft (Salamone, 2000). Madumo is later thrown out of his home to the streets. He is left as a cast out, with no friends and jobless. The book main theme is tradition beliefs especially witchcraft in south Africa where he explains how it takes place as a method of making sense to the world together with other religious ideas. The writer gives the escapades he went through as he helped his friend get cure from curse.
The story begins with Adams arrival in Madumo's home on Mphahlele Street, Soweto a few days after his arrival in Soweto (Salamone, 2000). However his knock on his door goes answered and Adams gets in while still calling out hallo. He comes to learn later that Madumo has been kicked out after the accusations when he founds him on the streets. After been kicked out Madumo believes that he is cursed and seeks help from different prophets and healers in Soweto. He is confirmed to have been bewitched by a traditional healer or Inyanga. Meanwhile Adams helps him get cure through Mr. Zondi who is a medicine man by paying for his treatment.
The traditional healer in the Soweto slums consulted the spirits up to Zion Christian church headquarters and was barraged by prophets who were eagerly waiting for them. A ritual feast was hosted in the Johannesburg distant suburbs where there is slaughtering of a white chicken for goodwill assurance to the ancestors. Madumo is later washed with soil from his mother's grave and herbs. His legs and hands are cut and some mercury put into them. He is also given some other herbs which make Madumo sicker as he vomits dry blood near to death point. However he takes it religiously despite his condition. This makes Adams feel bad for allowing the treatment but he believes the treatment makes Madumo happy. Madumo remarks that he should westernize his mind and think not witchcraft. However the treatment could not change the situation he was in of material state (Salamone, 2000).
Adams later talks to his friend who is a surgeon and describes serious repercussion on Madumo's health like kidney failure, ulcers and dehydration. This worries Adam for allowing Zondi to endorse the cure on Madumo.When asked if he believes in witchcraft, Adams declares that he does not. Meanwhile he knows that there are no arguments that he can use to persuade those who believe that Madumo's treatment is not different from people who pray and believe that prayer is a real divine interaction. His support to Madumo by paying his treatment bill benefits his friend more than his arguments to get him out of the beliefs. After the treatment, Adams travels back to his country and congratulates himself for not believing in the witchcraft beliefs.
This article explores more on witchcraft employment by other people apart from Madumo for various reasons. This depicts how strong the witchcraft belief is in South Africa. Witchcraft as shown in the book was practiced by both the south Africans and westerners as he remarks that people were suffering despite democracy dawning and the task of exploring the misfortune meaning was becoming complex. Bewitchment has been employed by many people so as to cope up with life in new South Africa. Witchcraft has been used to reinforce the traditional life and profitable to many people. It has survived the new South Africa secularism as Mr. Zonki mixes some concoctions for himself for Inkatha fighting in the Soweto hostels (Salamone, 2000). This is indicated in the deluge of witchcraft. The medicine healer practices this even in the new era of South Africa. Interpretation space of both physical and social ailment attributed by forces beyond ones control has gone far having survived apartheid fall as he comments that all Ubuntu talks or African humanism by the African upper class, the everyday life practice on the Soweto streets has tend to go towards dog- eat – dog. In this he showed that witchcraft beliefs were increasing with economy changes.
The blacks find themselves in conflict over electricity and housing in the new era as they aren't offered for free as it was before. These everyday difficulties are reflected in remarks about the university by Madumo relatives. They are impatient with Madumo's new opportunities pursuit. Meanwhile same sentiments are echoed by other families who are struggling with the fallen value of the rand making academics prospects to become expensive. This makes most people turn to witchcraft to look for solutions for their troubles. The witchcraft also goes on the rise due to emergence of AIDS as people first seek help from the medicine healers and only seek medical help after the Inyanga fails. Adams in this article gives a detailed view of witchcraft as institution that is inseparable from the south Africans life however the changes accompanying the new era has increased positive effects on the theme.
In the article Madumo remarks that the problem with Africans when their life picks up and life runs smoothly they tend to forget their ancestors because they follow culture from the westerners. This brings conflict as modern people try to honor their ancestors. The youth are shown to have ignored the traditions and elder members in the society are expected to judge and govern youth plans. This is shown in the article when Dr. Zonki prefers Madumo to approach his family elders in the witchcraft matters. This shows witchcraft role in tradition preservation and ancestor worship. Through this article Adams depicts that witchcraft issue is not only superstitious but also a spiritual danger response during political and economic troubles. He remarks that with apartheid away, the sorrows from unfair fate could only be measured case after the other against some relatives, neighbors and colleagues conspicuous good fortune. This gives a reason for the country's witchcraft reports.
The major point that Adams shows in the article is that spiritual beliefs are not translatable and he concludes that witchcraft is related to religious enigma and is completely not understood by people who haven't experienced it.
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