ZAMBIA : a spirit hospital, a cure for impotence, a river cleansing and more

watch the Zambia films on our youtube channel


Shula Marindi is famous in a very large area and has patients from Zambia, Congo and even South Africa. She told me she runs a ‘spirit hospital’ because all diagnoses and healing are done by the three spirits which possess her. In her compound there are eight outbuildings in which patients stay, some for a few days, some for weeks or months. I interviewed her at length, also about the relationship between traditional African and western medicine, about which she has very interesting ideas. Shula refers many patients to ‘western’ doctors but also they send people to her.


patients waiting for the trance dance

photo by Vera van der Waal


We attended a long trance session in which she diagnosed the problems of a couple who had travelled far to see her. We also witnessed two impressive, long ceremonies with hectic drumming and singing in which she treated people with mental problems by trance dancing, attended by a large crowd.The patient is on the left in the photo, Shula is second from left. Such patients are treated in a series of sessions, sometimes over a period of months. Also we witnessed and filmed Shula's confrontation with and destruction of fetish objects from an evil witch doctor, who had enslaved a young girl according to her family.


Shula Marindi during the healing dance

  Also in the central province we went to Dr. Chushi, a man who lives deep in the bush and who is possessed by seven healing spirits. We went to his compound after asking permission from the local chief during a visit to his palace. Chushi had numerous patients waiting to be treated. We witnessed two ritual cleansings in a nearby river, during which he drove out bad spirits. These ceremonies were very much in harmony with the force of nature that is all around in this area and from which Dr Chushi and his spirits draw their strength.


this woman was ritually cleansed in the river


Dr Sansakuwa of the Kaonde people lives in Ndola on the Congo border. He was raised by his grandfather who took him on many expeditions into the bush, showed him all the herbs and healing trees. Sansakuwa is the name of the spirit which possessed his grandfather. It had come to him from his ancestors and he passed it on to his grandson when he died. The spirit called Sansakuwa, the doctor told me, is itself already many centuries old and passes into every new generation as its human host dies.

In the video about him he cures a patient whose wife has run away because he was impotent. He sends a powerful spirit to fetch the wife back and the man's sexual powers are restored.


Dr Sansakua holding a spirit object


Some future spirit doctors already have one or more spirits inside them but do not yet have control of them. Dr. Luchele Nganga of the Ushi people has a trainee whom he is helping to control her healing spirits. When she reaches that point she will be able to become an independent spirit doctor herself. In this film Dr. Luchele explains about spirit possession and the way to harness these spirits. We see a session in which he helps his female trainee to talk to her spirits, recognise them and take control of their powers.Luchele also shows us his altar and explains the images of the various spirits.


Dr Luchele Nganga in his holy place

the other Zambia films will be available on our youtube channel soon

we wish to thank the Creative Design Research Group of HKU, University of the Arts Utrecht led by Dr. Jan IJzermans, and translator Basil Chisonta