Rituals of Healing

By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)

Democratic Republic of the CongoYombe (Mayombe, Bayombe, Majombe) peoples

Bell

Wood

H. 14.5 cm. (5 3/4")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.594

Most cures call for the playing of instruments to accompany singing and dancing during the healing ceremonies. And so the successful ritual specialist is also often an accomplished dancer and musician. Among Yombe peoples, the musical instrument itself is seen as bilongo (a medicine). Both the materials used in the making of power objects and the musical instruments themselves are chosen for their metaphoric value in evoking the responsible spirit. For example, the ringing of this Yombe dibu (bell) is used to call upon the spirits for aid to hunt down witches and other vengeful individuals who bring misfortune onto an individual or community. The spirit embodied by the bell hunts down the witch in the same manner that a dog hunts wild animals. Because of its importance in the battle against affliction, the dibu and other medicine instruments also serve as a symbol or badge of the nganga (healer).