Massage important in Khoisan healing approach – Oxford scholar explains lack of ethnographic interest

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Massage is a commonplace and important healing strategy amongst ‘Khoisan’ but ethnographic and anthropological literature largely ignores or downplays massage. This is the view of Doctor Chris Low of the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford who recently published an article in the Journal of Southern African Studies. Low contends that the primary reasons for this partiality concerns the ‘everyday’ and ‘recognisable’ nature of massage and that of the low medical status accorded massage through history. This has lead to a lack of ethnographic interest in the subject. He also suggests that an overwhelming anthropological focus on the San healing dance has overshadowed recent research into healing strategies. This has resulted in an uneven representation of Khoisan medicine. The article also describes how massage and the dance relate to one another in a wider healing context. By linking the dance and massage in this manner, Low suggests how aspects of current massage practice continue to operate within distinctive and old Khoisan ways of thinking about and practising medicine. The article ends by presenting examples of ‘Khoi’ disease categories and their treatment by massage. Whilst not going so far as to identify a Khoisan ‘medical system’, Low says that the article uses massage to lay the bones of a distinctive and coherent approach to illness and treatment. Health in the Khoisan culture was also the subject of Dr Low’s doctorate which involved extensive fieldwork in . He explored historical representations of Khoisan medicine relative to current practices and ideas. Starting with an initial focus on massage, the project pushed for a new way of conceptualizing all aspects of Khoisan medicine that highlighted an underlying set of ideas, including notions of wind, smell and potency, that both informed current practice and seemed to tie contemporary medical strategies to a hunter-gatherer past. His current research concerns how the environment and changes in the environment influences medical ideas and practices. He focuses on Khoekhoe and San groups in , and and their changing relationships with animals from the distant past to the present. In 1993 Low received his Licentiate Acupuncture at the British College of Acupuncture in London and in 1989 he completed a Diploma in Osteopathy at the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, . Source: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a787562541~db=all~jumptype=rss...

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2013 – Massage in Africa: Midwives and massage – Integrating the art of touch and maternity care in Africa

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Still today, traditional healers and midwives skilfully integrate the ancient healing arts of massage and midwifery, as they have for thousands of years. By Erika Kruger Modern day midwife, Kara Maja Spencer, describes prenatal massage and compassionate touch during the childbearing year as more than a primitive practice or luxurious pampering; it is an essential and vital part of holistic maternity care 1. “Before Western medical practices displaced traditional midwifery, the touch and massage of a midwife or birth attendant was the central component of prenatal care around the world. In the absence of obstetrical tools and gadgets a midwife had her eyes, ears, and hands to diagnose and assist pregnant women. Honed by constant practice the midwife’s senses of observation and intuition through touch were finely tuned. Today, traditional healers and midwives skilfully integrate the ancient healing arts of massage and midwifery, as they have for thousands of years.2 THE ROLE OF MIDWIVES A qualitative investigation of traditional midwives in Botswana has profiled her as a woman who is socially and culturally integrated into the local community; represents a highly valuable source of information on cultural conceptions of crucial importance to childbearing Batswana women; demonstrates the value of a close personal relationship and communication with the delivering woman; realizes the limitations of her own capacity in birthing situations; and maintains close links with and makes referrals to the local hospital where indicated 3. The prototypical traditional midwife who was the focus of this study was a 48-year-old Batswana woman who had attended over 350 births since 1971. Among her roles were pregnancy diagnosis, assessment of nutritional intake, counselling regarding the side effects of pregnancy massage of the abdomen, delivery, assessment of the newborn, cord care and cultural rituals. After delivery the traditional midwife makes home visits to follow up on vulnerable populations and encourage use of family planning to space births. MASSAGE IN PREGNANCY Massage plays an important role in preparing Nigerian mothers for childbirth.  The traditional birth attendant (TBA) in , as in other parts of Africa , often does not have formal schooling and acquires her skill and knowledge from either a relation or friend by means of an informal apprenticeship 4. In contrast, the midwife has a formal, basic and professional education and can only practice independently after passing the prescribed national examination and being registered by the Nigerian Nursing and Midwifery Council. The midwife is responsible for the care of the woman during the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum period. From the 3rd month of pregnancy onward the midwife will carry out regular abdominal massage and palpation. This technique is used to loosen the nerves and relax the muscles, facilitating an easy pregnancy and delivery as well...

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Massage in Africa: Massage among the Khoesan of Namibia. Story and photographs by Dr Chris Low

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Chris Low DO; Lic Ac: BA(Hons); MSc; DPhil, comes from a family of osteopaths and acupuncturists. His father was a founder member of ’s first acupuncture school, ‘The British College of Acupuncture’. Both he and his brother qualified as osteopaths and acupuncturists. After five years in full time practice, Chris returned to university to study archaeology, history of medicine and KhoeSan medicine and history. Chris is currently an ESRC Research Fellow at African Studies, Oxford University, completing a three years research project, ‘Animals in Bushman Medicine’. Dr Low would like to thank the ESRC for the continued support of his work. In 1918 ’s first female field anthropologist, Winifred Hoernlé, published an article concerning her findings amongst Nama living around the border of South Africa and Namibia. In her article Hoernlé briefly mentioned a Nama belief that organ misalignment or movement caused sickness. The Nama cure for such illness was to massage organs back to their correct respective positions. It was Hoernlé’s sparse remarks that set me on the track of KhoeSan massage. The Nama belong historically to a relatively homogenous hunting and herding southern African group collectively referred to as the KhoeSan. The group principally comprises of the San or Bushmen, the Nama or Khoekhoe and the Damara. Although the once popular idea of Bushman as relics from an ancient hunter-gatherer past has long since been dismissed, there are arguments that much of Bushman religion and medicine has distant roots. On this basis massage ideas and practices found amongst the KhoeSan may draw upon knowledge and routines that are possibly thousands of years old. Hoernlé’s reference to Nama massage was an unusual although not entirely unique observation around 1900. What is striking about her and the other comments, is that they received, and have subsequently received virtually no attention. For myself, someone brought up in a world of osteopathy and acupuncture, these massage ideas leapt from the page echoing osteopathic ideas of organ torsion or possibly movements of Qi. From a medical anthropology and historical point of view, my later training, this information strongly suggested an unappreciated Nama knowledge of anatomy, organ function and illness. Over the last nine years I have travelled extensively amongst the KhoeSan of South Africa, and on the path of not only what healing strategies these people employ but their medical reasoning. From the outset of my research it was readily apparent that my hunch concerning the ongoing importance of massage amongst the KhoeSan was correct. The briefest of time in rural revealed that ideas of organ movement and corrective massage were familiar to many Nama. In subsequent research I have found that similar ideas are held amongst Namibian Damara, Hai//om and Nharo and...

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Massage in Africa: An overview

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InTouch looks at massage in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt. MASSAGE USED BY TRADITIONAL BONESETTERS Bony injuries in the Nigerian society are often treated by traditional methods known as traditional bone setting (TBS) which often include massaging the fractured bones. Traditional bone setting is a well recognized and age long practice in African tradition and associated with much mythology and superstition. According to Adesina , of the faculty of pharmacy at the Obafemi Awolowo University in ,  traditional bone setters are those knowledgeable in the art and skill of setting broken bones in the traditional way, using their skill to see that bones unite and heal properly. “Wounds resulting from such fractures are usually cleaned, the bones are set making sure that the ends of the bones unite properly to prevent any deformity. Bleeding is usually stopped on application of plant extracts, basil or cassava leaf extracts or the giant snail’s body fluid. It is common to use banana leaves as lint. Wooden splints made from bamboo plants are used to immobilise the fractures while fresh or dry banana stem fibre (a fibrous plant), have served as bandage. Various methods are known for applying traction to fractured legs. Patients are usually also subjected to radiant heat treatment or hot applications of peppers to reduce inflammation and swelling. An interesting aspect of the bone setter’s approach is the selection of a chicken whose leg would be broken and re-set. The fracture caused on the chicken is treated alongside that of the patent at the same time and in the same way. This is usually used to determine the time the patient’s fracture would heal, and the time to remove the wrapped splints and clay caste. Although Adesina states that the occurrence of deformities or abnormal shapes of post-treatment limbs is very rare . research done by Drs Udosen, Otei and Onuba of the Department of Surgery at the University of Calabar in , among owners of traditional bone centres in Calabar and environs paints a different picture . According to the researchers, TBS is primarily practised by males and is considered a hereditary skill. Practitioners therefore do not see any need for collaboration with or make referrals to orthodox medical practitioners who they consider to be intruders into their business. Only about a third of the bonesetters interviewed had attained a secondary level of education and none had any knowledge of anatomy and physiology. The result is frequent complications such as pain, tetanus, gangrene and mal-union, non-union, joint stiffness and infections. These are however usually attributed to charms and witchcrafts. Repeated manipulation and massage of fractured bones cause severe pain and result in complications. Forms of pain relief used...

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African Massage: Traditional African weapon used in the fight against stress

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Sarene Kloren looks at calabash and African rungu massage. Tooled massages are experiencing rapid growth in the massage and spa industries. They are unique and easy treatments that guarantee your client will experience an unforgettable treatment. Tools reduce the strain on the therapist’s hands and body, enabling them to give a much deeper massage with the tools than with their hands. It also allows the massage therapist to be able to perform more treatments in a day than they usually would be able to. Calabash massage The calabash has only recently been documented for use as a massage tool, however it is fast becoming a trend in exclusive spas across , the U.K and It is ideal for clients who request a medium to soft pressure massage and is perfect for clients who would usually request a Swedish or aromatherapy massage treatment. The calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not for food but as a container. Throughout Africa calabashes are hollowed out, dried and used as household utensils. Typically utensils include water carriers and drinking bowls. In West Africa they are also used as musical instruments and rattles. In , the calabash was used as a container of liquids – often alcohol and medicinal cures and in Hawaii it is still used as a large serving bowl and the term “Calabash Family” refers to extended family who have grown up sharing meals and close friendships. Various sizes and shapes of calabashes are used as effective medium pressure massage tools. A typical set of calabash massage tools consists of 10 calabashes: A Crown Calabash to work the trapezius A Knobbly Calabash, which has small wart-like protrusions Four Bottle Calabashes are used for pushing movements like effleurage The Dipper Calabash, which looks like a spoon is used for circular movements and can be dipped into cold water to cool the body in summer. There are also small tools for the feet and two small spoon-shaped ones for the face. Relaxation is increased as the seeds in some of the calabash plants resonate unique soothing sounds during the treatment – comparable to a soft babies rattle. The gentle movements alternating with soft touches and the unique sounds of the dried seeds bring about a heightened sense of relaxation and peacefulness. The cool feel of the calabashes against the skin combined with cold water makes this an excellent massage for summer. Caring for calabashes Sterilizing of the calabashes after each treatment is vital as they have a porous skin and absorb oils from the treatment. This can be done by using steri-wipes or wiping with a natural (tea tree) sterilizing spritz and soft cloth. Never soak calabashes...

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