The colonization of the western world brought on many changes for the indigenous people of Africa in every way of life. The Christian missionaries accomplished much more than just introducing their religion. They also exposed and converted Africans to western values and social beliefs. Health care practices were one of the things greatly influenced by the colonization. In my paper, I am focusing on the practices of the east central region of Africa, including the regions of Nigeria and (??? ). This region has common Bantu-speaking ancestors and commonalties among medicines and practices.
The impact of the western world is easily recognizable because of the radical differences in thought between the Europeans and the Africans. At the time of colonization, European health care centered around science and reason. Most Africans, on the other hand, believed in more abstract, spiritual explanations for disease and illness. Religious practitioners had a big part in the healing process. The infiltration of western ideas sparked obvious changes and many times produced a combination of traditional healing along with western ideas.
There were changes in health care practices even before the time of colonization and I will also give a brief history of this change to emphasize the fact that religion and practices are never stagnant. Brief history of people in East Central region African healing practices traditionally have strong ties with religion. They place an emphasis on holistic healing and believe in a mind-body connection. Divination is one technique that is often used to find the cause of a particular illness. “Since all human problems such as infertility, llness, and trouble in hunting, are ascribed to moral conflicts within the human community, the diviner’s task is to disclose acts of immorality which have provoked the vengeance of the ancestors, and to reveal the destructive hand of witches and sorcerers. ” (Ray, 104). A diviner searches a person’s past to find something that may be ascribed to the works of an outside source. They want to find the source of the problem before simply treating the symptoms. They also believe that once the source is found, a ceremony can be performed that may lead to the reversal of its effect.
There is a strong belief that the cause of illness is in the mind, so when the treatment is foscused there, improvement in physical ailments may be seen. “Because illness and death are seen to be rooted in immoral acts, the diviner’s role is to help the community in its constant efforts of moral judgment. ” (Ray 106). The diviner in this case acts as both a religious authority, placing jugement and finding wrongs, and as a healer, heading ceremonies to drive off the sickness. The African people of this area combine religion and medicine to heal the sick and help the dying.
At the time of colonization, the Euopeans were taking an entirely different approach to medicine. They had placed all of their faith on science and reason, leaving all spirituality to religion. They completely separated the two matters, believing the mind and body to be on two different realms. “In Europe and America, prior to the era of new imperialism, medicine had become free of a priestcraft and scientific explanations had completely triumphed over social and supernatural ones. ” (Waite, 99). They were coming out of a period ridden with fears of witches and supernatural hreats. New explanations and theories were being formed from mathematics and advances in science were being made daily. It was the era of reason and anything other than reason was considered primitive and unworthy of their highest respect. Belief in the supernatural was in Europe’s past, so naturally they believed they had advanced from that stage. When they arrived in Africa, they were eager to introduce them to what they believed to be better, more advanced forms of medicine. When the Europeans came to Africa, they didn’t understand many African practices.
This is true especially in the case of medicine. They went so far as to ban some of the healing methods because they misunderstood them to be dangerous. “British passed ordinances throughout their Central African territories making it a crime merely to accuse anyone of sorcery. As a result, public control of sorcery came to an end. People now had to make accusations privately with mediums and diviners. ” (Waite, 106). They made it so the traditional practices of Central Africa were considered to be anti-European, and therefore wrong. They were forced to hide what they were doing.