Heritage month is celebrated in diverse ways, treasuring what was passed on to us. A resident of Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, started an indigenous medicine garden in the Magaliesberg, following a call from his ancestors.
The garden, named the Mothong African Heritage Site, was just the beginning.
One night in 2001, Ephraim Mabena says he had a dream. Mabena, then a sport enthusiast and an anti-apartheid activist, was instructed by his maternal grandfather to build a house on the mountain. The place identified by the ancestor, was an illegal dumping site frequented by criminals.
He says the dream was confusing and he had to consult other elders.
“Little did I know that my ancestors were trying to say I must go and say to those mountains, ‘Sorry,’ and thank those mountains for the role that they’ve played, more especially when I grew up and where I was interrogated by the security forces at that time.”
As the dream became clearer, Mabena, who is now a traditional healer, started his project on the dump site. 19 years later, the Mothong African Heritage Trust is a place of learning and healing.
Serene and quiet, it is a stark contrast to the buzz of the streets of Mamelodi.
Indigenous medicinal plants are being preserved at the site.
“The plants that are getting extinct. Plants like Umkhanyakude, plants like Umhlonyane; which is currently on top of the range, and quite a number of plants that we are planting on the mountain.”
Fulfilling his dream, Mabena has gained global recognition and has won a number of awards. Still he remains modest, dedicating all the accolades to the people of Mamelodi and South Africa.
Taking the initiative forward, he’s collaborating with a number of institutions of higher learning, scientists and researchers.
Mabena hasn’t stopped dreaming. Next is to grow the Mothong African Heritage Site into a thriving centre of African Indigenous Knowledge.
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