Did you know?
The Xhosa language names each month of the year after a botanical bloom or event.
Just north of Dutywa (also called 'Idutywa') off the N2 highway in the Eastern Cape, you’ll find a sign that reads: Icamagu Institute.
And although the institute embraces a modest cultural village of a few rondawels, a nursery and a vegetable garden, the woman behind the project is a veritable force of nature.
An author of cultural and spiritual works, Dr Nokuzola Mndende is a former lecturer in comparative religions. She is also a diviner and firm believer in African indigenous religion.
'The word Icamagu', she says, 'is an utterance, a phrase used when one is speaking with or invoking the ancestors. It is something that connects individuals and the spiritual world.
'The ancestors prefer to communicate through dreams, and they like darkness – which is why some villages refuse the offer of electricity.'
Mndende takes visitors on a walk through the various huts, where they learn about the customs of the Xhosa. In one hut, a woman is demonstrating the use of a rolling pin to grind maize on a special stone.
'You know the famous phrase: "When you strike a woman, you strike a rock?" Well, the rock they refer to this a grinding stone like this,' she will tell you.
Your fascinating journey with Mndende will take you into the world of diviners, the mourning customs of the villagers, and the various medicinal plants growing amidst the food crops in the Icamagu vegetable garden.
There is blue-flowering plumbago, which provides thin dancing sticks for the sangoma initiates; there is bulbinella, to remove your headache and open up your sinuses; sneezewood plants, which will later provide leaves to scatter over ceremonially cooked meat, and a plant called Hau Hau which, when boiled into a tea infusion, helps with chest coughs.
The vegetable garden also feeds Icamagu staff and produces olive and coral trees for sale.
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Who to contact
Tel/Fax: +27 (0) 21 797 8462
Cell: +27 (0) 73 2274080
Tel: +27 (0) 83 487 8975