About the Movie "A Message From African Healers"

by Maria D. Laso

"A Message From African Healers" is a 1980 documentary that was created by putting together two other documentaries made by researchers of Zaire's Scientific Research Institute to present key elements of the traditional African system of therapeutic healers, who provide critical health care in the remotest regions of many developing nations. The movie focuses especially on treatment of psychos illness and underscores the African tradition of keeping the patient integrated with society at large, rather than the Western tendency to segregate.

The Healers

The traditional healers featured in this movie are both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire. The 25-minute film first considers the day-to-day life of a psychiatric healer from the Ubangi region and then a Zebola therapeutic group in Kinshasha.

About the Production

This black-and-white movie, narrated in English, is directed by Kintenda Ki Mata and was produced by the International Development Research Centre (Canada), Corporate Affairs and Initiatives Division. It also is available in French under the title "Le Message des guérisseurs africains." Camera work is by Longo Lua Makwata, and sound is by Ntoko Yamba.

About the Location

The tropical Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, where the movie "A Message From African Healers" was filmed, is in central Africa and straddles the equator. The country -- the second largest in Africa -- is about one-fourth the size of the continental United States, and the 18th largest in population in the world. The diversity of its people, the history of political strife and the many remote villages are among the reasons why health care in the Western tradition is impractical.

About the People

More than 200 African ethnic groups comprise the approximately 71 million who live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of the citizens are Bantu; in fact, the nation's largest tribes -- Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu) and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) -- make up about 45 percent of the population. About one-half of the population identifies itself as Catholic; about 20 percent are Protestant and 10 percent, each, are Muslim, Kimbanguist, and other indigenous beliefs. The official language of the country is French; also spoken are the lingua-franca trade language of Lingala and a Swahili dialect known as Kingwana, as well as Kikongo and Tshiluba.

About the Author

Maria D. Laso is a trilingual writer-editor with more than 25 years experience; she now freelances, teaches and coaches writers. She publishes two 'zines written by and for young women and has a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern University.