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Himba People



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Possessed
Photograph by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

An old woman suffering from chest pain throws down her head as a healer with a calabash tries to draw a spirit from her body. For everyday "illnesses of the flesh," such as snake bites or wounds, the Himba use medicinal herbs or go to Western clinics and hospitals. For chronic or life-threatening illnesses they turn to healers, who exorcise spirits. More and more, women turn to other women in group trancing or healing sessions that anthropologist Margaret Jacobsohn thinks help them cope with rapid changes in their society—expanding tourism, the increased importance of the cash economy, children going to school, the growing influence of the national government—that are redefining their roles and undermining their authority.





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