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Ole Labiki Menyengera is a traditional healer, sharing his knowledge with Western medicine
Ole Labiki Menyengera is a third generation Maasai healer. He grew up in a village in northern Tanzania under the tutelage of his Grandfather, Grandmother and Mother, learning to diagnose illnesses and make medicines from plants. He was recognised in his community as a healer, blessed with knowledge and healing power.
With his brother he opened three clinics in the busy town of Arusha. Here, one day, an unusual client arrived, an American called Bradford Zak. Bradford had become a manager at Gibb’s Farm, near the Ngorongoro Crater, and he had two particular concerns. Firstly, he wanted to see the 150 workers on the farm well looked after. Secondly, he was eager to find ways to give travellers staying in the farm’s guest cottages a deeper experience of the culture of the area. And so he asked Labiki to move up to Gibbs and open a clinic catering to staff and their families, and visitors.
Labiki still runs clinics near Arusha, and returns regularly to support his own village. But Gibbs has become his base. It has beautiful forests and this is important for Labiki, not only as a place to gather bark, roots and leaves for medicines, but also as a place to pray. For the Maasai, Engai (God) is present in the natural world, and there is power in nature. A healer’s power comes, in part, from their connection with the energy in the world around them. Gibbs gives Labiki a forest environment in which to live and practise in a traditional healing house.
Labiki prepares herbs for his treatments
Walking through the woods with Labiki I enjoyed, for the first time, talking freely to a traditional African healer. Typically language and cultural barriers create distance and it is hard to learn first hand about the beliefs and practices of Africa. But Labiki crosses easily between a traditional and a western world. He has seen that Maasai values and medicines have the power to keep people healthy, and he thinks that this is not only for the Maasai, but should be shared with everyone.
Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 14 Oct 2010
Location: East Africa | Tanzania
Themes: healing, inspiring