A mission for tradition
By Garth Johnstone
Midlands personality Elliot Ndlovu gained fame through his work as a traditional doctor and with Fordoun Hotel and Spa, where he consults and helps produce the Ndlovu line of products.
My lasting impression of our meeting at his farm, Kwa Malulekoes, is of Elliot striding across the fields, rattling off the names of the various plants and herbs he grows.
The farm, about 7km outside Mooi River, on the Giant’s Castle road, serves as his nursery and stockpile. Many of the plants have healing properties and are used during consultations.
His love for the land and plants is clear, and I can’t keep up as he tells me their names and about his various projects, while instructing workers on the tasks at hand.
Elliot says the correct term for his profession is traditional doctor, a calling that first came to him as a youngster, but grew stronger at the end of the 1980s, when his ancestors demanded he turn to traditional medicine and become a healer.
He has been at the helm of the eight-hectare Kwa Malulekoes property for three years and has a number of goals: to propagate and build up reserves of traditional plants which are under assault from overharvesting; to develop his commercial nursery – he aims to have more customers visit and purchase items direct from the farm; to provide job opportunities, and to realise his 10-year financial plan for the farm.
Elliot grew up in the Kamberg, but it was when he was working at a Mooi River textile company in 1989 that his life changed and he was set on his current path.
“My ancestors were speaking to me, and they warned me of great political violence which was coming. They were getting much more urgent and said I must leave.”
In an epic, five-hour session, his ancestors spoke to him and imparted a great store of knowledge about traditional herbs, their uses and how to grow and propagate them.
Elliot told his family he was going to become a traditional doctor and that they needed to slaughter animals. “Three cows, six goats and nine roosters.
“It was not like I suddenly knew everything about growing these herbs. I still had to learn as I went, but at least my path was clear. My family supported me, I also consulted with traditional healers and planned to educate people about the importance of the garden and growing these herbs.”
Scrubs and soaps
In about 2003 Elliot was given the opportunity to do work at Fordoun, where he was built a rondavel for consultations. Fordoun also sold and still sells and utilises products produced in partnership with Elliot, the Ndlovu range, in which he has a share. It consists of lotions, oils, scrubs and soaps which are made from the many plants in the hotel’s garden and which Elliot grows sustainably and promotes.
Today, conservation is very much at the top of his mind as he bemoans “those people in the markets” who sell plants, bark and animals that are now becoming scarce and, in some cases, endangered.
Elliot, whose story is told in the book by Melanie Reeder, A Sangoma’s Story – The Calling of Elliot Ndlovu, helps me by naming some of the plants he is concerned about:
● Crinum bulbispermum;
● Crinum macowanii;
● Scilla natalensis;
● Boophone disticha;
● Brunsvigia grandiflora;
● Agapantha praecox;
● Some of the Kniphofia varieties;
● Bowiea volubilis
Elliot supplies clients in Durban, Johannesburg and the Free State with sustainably grown and harvested products. He consults at Fordoun, as well as on the farm, and has a long list of clients.
Elliot’s plans are to continue to develop the plant- and herb-growing side of the business, to further formalise the gardens so that the layout is appealing to visitors and they can easily distinguish between the various plants, and to provide a parking area and formalised sales centre.
He hopes one day to hold a festival-type event, where experts and interested parties can gather to share ideas on traditional medicine and the growing of traditional plants, sell their product and network.
His son, Snakho, who went to school at Treverton and now studies at Weston, assists him with projects and will one day become part of the business.
“This is our home. We have a plan for this place and he is very much part of the future at Malulekoes,” he says.