Traditional Healers and Childhood in Zimbabwe — 1995

By Pamela Reynolds

“Professor Pamela Reynolds is perhaps the leading Africa-based anthropologist conducting research on the ethnography of the young, and on the effects of violence upon them. The author’s style is vivid, and her passion for those she works with is evident. This is neither a conventional text nor conventional anthropology.

“Professor Reynolds is drawing on her work with some sixty healers in three areas of Mashonaland in Zimbabwe. Her material on their training and techniques and the nature of their knowledge contains ethnography and analysis, which are in many ways ahead of their time.”

Murray Last, editor, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute

“In Traditional Healers and Childhood in Zimbabwe, the South African anthropologist and child development expert Pamela Reynolds has written a fascinating and important account of traditional healing as it relates to children and childhood in Zimbabwe. This lens brings powerful insights to the study of traditional healing practices applied to and through children. This book will find a special place in the new wave of ethnographies in medical anthropology—there is nothing else quite like it.”

Arthur Kleinman, professor of anthropology at Harvard University

“Professor Reynolds’s work is of immense importance to the understanding of narratives of healing in Southern Africa. The work of traditional healers is not uncomplicated and needs to be continually examined. This text contributes to such an examination.”

Dr. M.A. Ramphele, deputy vice chancellor, University of Cape Town

Based on the author’s fieldwork among the people of Zezuru, this study focuses on children as clients and as healers in training. In Reynolds’s ethnographic investigation of possession and healing, she pays particular attention to the way healers are identified and authenticated in communities, and how they are socialized in the use of medicinal plants, dreams, and ritual healing practices. Reynolds examines spiritual interpretation and remediation of children’s problems, including women’s roles in these activities, and the Zezuru concepts of trauma, evil, illness, and death. Because this study was undertaken just after the War of Liberation in Zimbabwe, it also documents the devastating effects of the war.


A graduate of Cape Town, Delhi, and Harvard universities, Dr. Pamela Reynolds has been a Research Fellow at the Universities of Zimbabwe and Cape Town. She is the author of several children’s books and of Growing up in a Divided Society: The Contexts of Childhood in South Africa and Children in Crossroads: Cognition and Society in South Africa.

Cover of 'Traditional Healers and Childhood in Zimbabwe'

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