Date of Award

2011

First Advisor

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Second Advisor

Kathryn Boswell

Abstract

My thesis tells the stories of three generations of women in my family: my grandmother Nzobo, my mother Boulah, and myself. My grandmother was a traditional healer and had a powerful influence on me. My mother, as a person of extraordinary compassion and creativity, continues to influence me. My thesis demonstrates in story how spiritual forces have interceded to resolve human complexity within three generations of my family and shows how African traditional spirituality has been used in healing practices within my family. African history since the end of colonization has been tumultuous. Many countries have seen a long series of civil wars. Families have been broken up and dislocated. Women have been raped, they have lost their husbands and belongings; their children have witnessed terrible acts or committed them if forced to become child soldiers. Women and children who suffer the effects of war’s devastation end up with huge problems; they suffer ill health and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. This thesis includes a personal account of my experiences during and after the most recent Congo War. In its final section, my thesis makes the argument that to more fully heal, the damaged women and children of Africa, in addition to modern medicine and nongovernmental programs, must be offered the kinds of traditional African wisdom and healing practices that were familiar to my grandmother and mother. It is only in combining the value of these ancient practices with modern medicine that African women can heal the physical and psychological wounds of their tragedies. The ancient traditions that served and helped past generations of Africans to maintain equilibrium during their challenges and that brought them healing and joy are being lost with the western way of thinking, but must be vii maintained and passed on to future generations. Africans have a long cultural history of spirituality and navigate easily between the spiritual world and the physical world when seeking solutions in all matters. Full healing also requires the traditional rituals, rites, prayers, and the calling upon the ancestors that Africans have relied on for many generations.

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