Spirit Embodiments

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

Shambaa peoples, Tanzania, healer’s gourds. Photo by Barbara Thompson.

Among the Shambaa, the health of an individual is directly related to well-being of the entire community environment. Power objects, such as these tunguli (healing gourds), are therefore embellished with symbolic references to diverse aspects of everyday life, social relationships, religious laws, beliefs, political ideals, and agricultural concerns. During personal and communal healing ceremonies, they provide health for the afflicted while also expressing broader notions of social balance and integrity.