The Durban Muthi Market allows visitors the opportunity to explore the
mysterious world of African traditional healing. Referred to by some as Durban's
"witches" market, visitors can make their way through the market and witness a
variety of traditional medicine, also known as muthi, being made and prepared
for sale. Visits to the Durban Muti Market help shed light on the billion rand
industry, which attracts a large number of international pharmaceutical
companies to South Africa to make use of the rich botanical resources, and the
valuable knowledge which is guarded by the Sangomas and Inyangas of the Zulu
The market's stalls are stocked full of various organic ingredients which range from crocodile teeth and snake skins, to bird claws, plants and a selection of mysterious powders. As visitors make their way through the market accompanied by the sound of various barks and roots being crushed, chopped and processed, they can make the opportunity to purchase a wide and interesting variety of items such as African incense (known locally as Impepho or wild sage), skillfully created decorative walking sticks, car tyre sandals, and "magical" talismans.
Also located at the market are a number of Sangomas, who provide visitors with a variety of insights, by throwing the bones. A collection of bones, shells, seeds and other assorted charms are thrown onto a reed mat, in an attempt to communicate with, and seek advice from the ancestors and spirit guides. Each item cast onto the mat bears a special meaning, or association, for example a hyena bone signifies a thief and will provide information about stolen objects. The Sangoma or the patient throws the bones but the ancestors control how they lie, and the Sangoma then interprets this metaphor in relation to the patient's life. Based on the outcome of the bone throwing, the Sangoma will then prescribe the relevant treatment, which could range from a variety of cleansing rituals to ointments or oral medicines.
Alternatively visitors can also consult an Inyanga (herbalist), who will suggest an appropriate remedy for the illness or complaint. These treatments may include acupuncture with porcupine quill, herbal balms and libations, and even love potions for the weary or lovesick. Those who are keen to know more about what is being made and sold may hire a Zulu-speaking guide as an interpreter as many of the vendors are not fluent in English.
The Durban Muthi Market extends from the Victoria Street Market, over the footbridges to the taxi ranks at Warwick triangle, an area once referred to as the Squatters Market.
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