Rituals of Healing

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

One of the female “spirit workers” pounds “yam” that will be given to artists (behind) to model figures. Igbo peoples, Nigeria. Photo by Herbert M. Cole.

Rituals of healing are often conducted as elaborate public productions that involve artists, musicians, dancers, and singers, as well as other community members who help in the preparations of the event. A spectacular example of communal healing rites is the Igbo mbari. The mbari is constructed as a prayer to a tutelary deity and helps restore welfare and balance, especially in times of great misfortune or illness. In making an mbari, selected community members are initiated as “spirits” and secluded from the rest of society.