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Healthcare Art Depicts the Anatomy of the Zulu Witch-Doctors Headress

Sangoma – The Zulu Witch Doctor

Ashley DAvidoff Copyright 2015

Using healthcare art, we depict the significance of the anatomical organs used in the Zulu Witch Doctor’s headdress. In Zululand, South Africa, the Sangoma are practitioners and counselors of folk medicine in traditional Zulu societies. The  dress of the Sangoma highlights their ancestral relationship.

Healthcare Art and the Significance of the Zulu Witch Doctor’s Headdress

The gallbladder for the witch doctor has cultural relevance among the Zulus. A characteristic constituent of the head dress is the presence of the gallbladder derived from the goat given as a sacrifice at the time of  the Sangoma’s graduation. There is a profound respect for the gallbladder which they believe has special powers.   Physically the gallbladder has the same shape as the uterus.  Because of their physical similarity they are assigned the powers to both receive and give life.  As a symbol of the power, the sangoma wears a headdress that contains the dried gallbladders of goats as can be seen in this healthcare art depiction. 



The Sangoma with Gall Bladders in His Head Dress

The following healthcare art piece  is dedicated to the Sangomas of South Africa, country of my birth.  The whole image has been recreated by repetitive use of a histological gallbladder mount as seen below.

Healthcare Art in the Zulu Witch Doctor Headress



The artistic rendition of the Sangoma was created by a whole mount of the tissue of the gallbladder. The face of the Sangoma is shown with multiple pear-shaped gallbladders crowning the headdress.  The rest of the face is reconstructed with variations of the histological mount of the gallbladder.

The art piece below reveals the method of creating the Sangoma art piece above.

Evolution of the Sangoma from Histological Whole Mount  to the the Witch doctor –  Giver and Receiver of Life

The evolution of the Sangoma from the whole mount (top left).  This was then reproduced in many colors and used to create the face (bottom left).  Finally the image was rendered to into the face of the witchdoctor

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