Healing and Spirituality: The mganga figure between literature, myths and beliefs

  • Graziella Acquaviva University of Turin
Keywords: Swahili, spirituality, healing, mganga


In  many parts of Africa, illness, health  and misfortune are considered human experiences influenced by spiritual entities, and therefore connected  to local beliefs and religion. Consequently, the concept of uganga (healing) reflects the total of knowledge, skills and practices based on theories, beliefs and experiences. The ‘conceptual reality’ can be transformed into imaginative and mnemonic reality through stories, narrations, representations and memories. In my paper, I will show the figures of three men who have been transformed into literary and/or media characters: the prophet-healer  Kinjeketile, the witchdoctor Nguvumali, and the “dreamy healer” Ambilikile Mwasapile a retired Lutheran pastor who became a public figure for his self-referential ability to cure diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Though they were different in chronology, history and destinies, they are still linked to the topic of the ‘healing’.


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Author Biography

Graziella Acquaviva, University of Turin
Graziella Acquaviva holds a PhD in African Studies from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. She has done extensive field research in Tanzania and Kenya on Swahili popular literature and has many publications in the field of African literature. She further translated Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio: Storia di un burattino (1883) and Carofiglio’s Testimone inconsapevole (2002) from Italian into Swahili (Hekaya za Pinokio and Shahidi asiyekusudiwa). She teaches Swahili Language, Culture and Literature at the University of Turin.


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