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1 w Healing the Body Disease, Knowledge, and Medical Practices in the Zulu Kingdom while traveling through the most northern coastal territories of the newly established Zulu kingdom in 1822, Henry Francis Fynn fell ill and “delirious” with fever, the dread of locals and travelers alike. Laid up in a hut and awaiting his ship, Fynn recalls being taken to and treated by a male healer and his two female attendants: “On coming into an open space, they lifted me up and placed me in a pit they had dug and in which they had been making a large fire; grass and weeds had been placed therein to prevent my feet from being burnt. They put me in a standing position, then filled the pit with earth up to my neck. The women held a mat round my head. In this position they might have kept me for about half an hour. They then carried me back to the hut and gave me native medicine.”1 In his published diary, Fynn tells his reader that his recovery three days later resulted from this treatment and the African healer who doctored him. One of the first white traders and settlers in the Zulu kingdom, Fynn settled in Port Natal in 1824 and became fluent in Zulu. He not only received medical care from African healers, but claims to have studied their craft and administered African and European therapeutics to Africans and whites alike, something easily confirmed in the historical record.2 Because Fynn’s diary is the only source that mentions the fire-pit cure for fever, it is impossible to confirm the truth of his story. Used with caution, however , Fynn’s published recollections offer a rare glimpse at African therapeutic practice and knowledge during the period of the Zulu kingdom. But they also indicate the impossibility of separating out the African-European encounters that began before and would become more frequent during the “precolonial” period of the Zulu nation (1820–79). This interconnection is important to 37 You are reading copyrighted material published by Ohio University Press/Swallow Press. Unauthorized posting, copying, or distributing of this work except as permitted under U.S. copyright law is illegal and injures the author and publisher. point out in a chapter that purports to talk specifically about healing practices in the Zulu kingdom. The historical interactions between Africans of the Zulu kingdom and white traders, missionaries, and Natal administrators and settlers reveal both the nature of these intercultural encounters and some of the medical practices and knowledge of persons within the Zulu kingdom. Though the Zulu kingdom remained politically independent until its defeat by the British in 1879, it was not unadulterated by white influences. British traders came to the Zulu kingdom in 1824 seeking trading relations and were granted permission to settle along the kingdom’s periphery in the area that became Port Natal (renamed Durban in 1835). Acting as a client chiefdom of the Zulu kingdom, Port Natal provided the Zulu ruler access to weapons and coveted trade goods, but it also attracted Africans who sought to konza, or submit themselves to, these new white chiefs (discussed in chapter 3). Initially this proved unproblematic; King Tshaka, the first Zulu king (1816–28), wielded enough power to demand subservience and the return of defectors from his kingdom. Another white presence, albeit a small one with minimal internal influence, was that of missionaries either invited or given permission to practice within the kingdom. In 1838 a third white community—the Boers—settled along the western edge of the Zulu kingdom in the Drakensberg foothills after defeating a Zulu battalion at Ncome River. A year later they moved closer to the heart of the Zulu kingdom as King Mpande granted land in return for Boer military assistance to overthrow his brother King Dingane. Likewise Port Natal grew, attracting both whites and Africans alike, and eventually became recognized as the British colony of Natal in 1843. Zulu influence over their white neighbors declined greatly, and what had once been peripheral communities now had a much greater impact on events inside the kingdom. These white communities absorbed those wishing to avoid military service, seek political refuge, or earn money outside the grasp of the patriarchs. Even before the British annexation of Natal in the early 1840s, several chiefdoms had left the Zulu kingdom in favor of life under this new neighbor, though this sometimes worked in the other direction as Africans in the second half...

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