Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, profiles the sassy Prudence Matome, a trailblazing barrier breaking traditional medicine dynamo…
In the vast and diverse landscapes of Africa, the resurgence of interest in traditional medicine is not just a personal journey for individuals like Prudence Matome; it mirrors a broader cultural revival. Across the continent, a palpable shift is occurring as people, including the youth, turn towards indigenous knowledge systems, seeking solace in the roots of their heritage.
The traditional medicine sector in Africa is experiencing a revival, driven by a desire to reconnect with ancestral wisdom. This resurgence is not merely a rejection of modern pharmaceuticals but rather a deliberate attempt to reclaim cultural identity and heal in harmony with nature. Traditional medicine, often rooted in plant-based remedies and age-old practices, is gaining recognition for its holistic approach to well-being.
Traditional therapies are not confined to local communities; they are gaining traction on the global stage. Prudence’s foray into the international market aligns with a broader movement where African traditional medicine is being recognised for its unique contributions to holistic health. The global traditional medicine market, valued at over 560 billion in 2000, continues to expand, signalling a growing acceptance of diverse healing traditions.
Prudence Matome’s journey into the world of traditional medicine, as ”ngaka tshupe”, is not just a personal calling; it’s a crusade to revive and preserve African cultural roots that have been gradually fading away. Her late grandmother’s wisdom, passed down through generations, serves as a testament to the enduring power of indigenous knowledge.
In a world where modernity often eclipses ancient practices, Prudence stands as a beacon of tradition, specialising in African traditional medicine. The traditional medicine industry in Africa has seen a resurgence in recent years, with a notable trend among people, including the youth, shifting towards indigenous knowledge systems and away from pharmaceutical drugs.
Prudence’s journey into the realm of traditional medicine began at a very young age, under the guidance of her grandmother, Pherefere “Chilies” Mampe Esther Matome. Growing up in the Royal Bafokeng Nation, she learned about various herbs and their uses while collecting firewood in the fields. Little did she know that these early lessons would pave the way for her lifetime educational legacy.
“Growing up, we have always used indigenous medicine that our forefathers used to dig up for us,” Prudence reflects. “Those herbs (mesunkwana) helped us and made us grow without any complications.” Today, Prudence sells different types of herbs, including homemade salts, offering protection, aura cleansing, and more, tailored to the challenges of her clients’ lives.
But she never knew traditional medicine was her calling. Unlike many traditional healers, she did not undergo the typical initiation process known as “go thwasa.” Instead, her awakening came through a series of experiences that transcended the boundaries of Western medical science. Prudence faced illnesses that were mysterious and baffling, defying conventional diagnoses and treatments. It was in the midst of these challenges that she found solace in the teachings of her church.
“My church has no problem with this because the prophets there were the first to inform me about my spiritual calling,” Prudence explains. This revelation highlights the acceptance and understanding within her religious community, challenging the notion that traditional healing is incompatible with mainstream religious beliefs. Prudence believes that the two realms can coexist harmoniously, each contributing to the holistic well-being of individuals.
Prudence’s unique position as a bridge between traditional healing and religion is a testament to her unwavering faith. Instead of viewing her calling as a contradiction, she sees it as a divine alignment, a path that transcends man-made boundaries. Her ability to integrate the spiritual teachings of her church with traditional healing practices is a reflection of her deep-rooted belief in the interconnectedness of all aspects of life.
In the midst of her work in the mining industry, Prudence faces the challenges of balancing modernity with tradition. However, her commitment to her heritage is unwavering. “I believe if we come together as traditional healers in partnership with the government, we can protect our nature and the indigenous knowledge passed on from generation to generation,” she passionately asserts.
The clash between Western and African cultures is not lost on Prudence, who laments the erosion of African identity. “We have lost our culture due to Western culture and the dictatorship of market economies,” she reflects. Yet, she remains hopeful that a resurgence of interest in traditional practices, coupled with education and collaboration, can help reclaim what has been lost.
As Prudence continues to navigate her dual roles in the mining industry and traditional medicine, she and her business partner, Bridget Raphata, are contributing to the growth of an industry that goes beyond monetary value. They jointly own their company, Reyakgona Holdings (Pty) Ltd. “It’s about preserving a cultural heritage that holds the potential to shape the future,” says Prudence matter-of-factly.
Leveraging her educational background in marketing and communications, Prudence has become the public face of her healing endeavours, breaking stereotypes along the way. she understands the importance of effective communication and branding in the modern world, using her skills to represent her traditional healing practice as a legitimate and valuable aspect of wellness.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
In a world driven by first impressions, Prudence faces a unique challenge. At first glance, people may see her as a slay queen, someone defined by fashionable aesthetics and an outward glamour that might not align with the traditional image of a healer. However, for those willing to engage in a conversation with her, a profound shift occurs as the layers of Prudence’s identity are unveiled.
Prudence acknowledges the initial assumptions people make about her based on her appearance. The term “slay queen” often carries with it connotations of superficiality and a focus on external beauty. Yet, Prudence is quick to point out that her true essence goes far beyond these stereotypes.
“When people look at me, they think I’m a slay queen,” Prudence acknowledges, “but that changes after we sit down and have a conversation. They then realise who the real person I am.”
Prudence’s journey as a traditional healer challenges societal norms and preconceived notions. Her appearance, often associated with contemporary fashion trends and a certain lifestyle, becomes a gateway to a deeper understanding of the intricate layers that make up her identity.
The transformation occurs when individuals take the time to engage with Prudence in conversation. As the dialogue unfolds, a richer, more authentic narrative emerges, revealing her profound connection to spirituality, healing, and a holistic approach to well-being.
Prudence’s ability to defy expectations is not just a testament to her unique personal journey but also a reminder of the importance of looking beyond surface-level judgments. Her story challenges the notion that one’s external appearance can accurately reflect the depth of their character or the complexity of their experiences.
An intervention steeped in traditional science
Prudence’s marketing acumen has elevated their practice, making traditional healing more accessible and acceptable to a broader audience. Her clientele, predominantly aged between 20 and 45, reflects a growing demographic seeking solace in traditional remedies. “Life is difficult because we live in a world of evil and jealousy,” she observes, acknowledging the myriad challenges her clients face. In an era where spiritual ties, curses, and the quest for prosperity dominate concerns, her herbal solutions offer an alternative path to healing. “Young people, grappling with the complexities of modern life, are turning to traditional medicine for solutions to spiritual ties, bad luck, curses, protection from enemies, and financial woes…”
Her dedication to providing remedies extends beyond profit, echoing the ethos of her forebears who believed in healing without monetary compensation. “Normally we don’t require money, as our forebears used to heal people without paying, but instead show a token of appreciation with a form of gift, sometimes money,” Prudence explains, emphasising the reciprocal relationship between healer and healed.
Prudence’s advocacy for collaboration and education is underscored by a deeper understanding of the unique qualities of herbal medicine. “Many herbal medicines are naturally strong and don’t have a dosage,” she cautioned in her recent interview with Leadership magazine. Her emphasis on following herbalists’ instructions is not just a practical guideline but a plea to respect the potency of traditional remedies.
*** Trailblazing partners: Prudence Matome and Bridget Raphata ***
Challenges and opportunities
While the traditional medicine sector in Africa holds immense potential, it is not without challenges. The encroachment of Western culture, market penetration, and the allure of modern pharmaceuticals pose threats to the preservation of indigenous knowledge. Her call for collaboration between traditional leaders and the government reflects the urgent need to protect nature and safeguard the invaluable heritage passed down through generations.
Prudence’s entrance into the world of herbs and ancestral wisdom challenges preconceived notions about traditional healers. Her beauty, both inside and out, becomes a beacon that draws attention not just to her physical appearance but to the beauty inherent in the ancient healing traditions she is preserving and promoting.
The misperception that traditional medicine is synonymous with backwardness is one that Prudence actively seeks to dispel. Her commitment to her cultural heritage does not diminish her modern sensibilities; instead, it harmonises the old and the new, creating a narrative where tradition is not an obstacle but a source of strength and innovation.
Her journey challenges preconceived notions about traditional healers, showing that they can be not only spiritually attuned but also well-educated and skilled communicators. Prudence’s story is a reminder that embracing one’s calling does not require abandoning other facets of life, but rather integrating them into a harmonious whole.
In a world where the pharmaceutical industry dominates the healthcare landscape, Prudence stands as a symbol of resilience, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity. As she continues to nurture her ancestral knowledge, Prudence becomes a torchbearer for a renaissance in African traditional medicine, inviting others to join her in a journey that transcends generations.
As Prudence continues to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, her journey exemplifies a resurgence of interest in African traditional medicine, where ancient wisdom meets contemporary challenges.