Accepted paper:

Ilizi: young adults and the state of traditional healing in Dodoma, Tanzania


Gitty Petit (African Studies Centre Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the material object ilizi (Swahili for charm) as a lens on health and a way to examine the state of the institution of traditional healing in Dodoma (Tanzania). Young adults in this growing urban environment have a seemingly complex relation with ilizi and traditional healing.

Paper long abstract:

This paper has the material object of ilizi (the Swahili word for charm) as a focus point. Through the stories about that object from young adults, religious leaders and traditional healers (who make the object) in relation to the conditions of the urban environment of Dodoma, Tanzania, traditional healing in the city might be seen as a dying institution. The city of Dodoma is growing, both in number of people as in size. Young adults have access to many facilities with regards to education, religion and health care and mention those aspects as a reason not to go to the traditional healer. I would like to add the negative connotation towards healers as a fourth reason why traditional healing might be a dying institution. But there is an apparent complex relation between the young adults and traditional healers. Young adults say they don't use objects like ilizi, but do know stories about them. On the other hand the healers interviewed indicate that young adults do come to visit them, for different health issues and misfortunes like stolen property, getting a job or wanting to get pregnant. The secretiveness of the use of the object might be the reason why it is easier to find the healers in the outskirts of the city than in the city centre. By focusing on the narratives about the material object of ilizi from different angles we can study the seemingly dying institution of traditional healing in the urban environment.

panel Hea02
The arts of dying and reviving institutions of health and well-being