Tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading out to visit Loliondo, the site of Babu’s faith healing that attracts millions of followers. Located in a very rural area, it is interesting to see how infrastructure has begun to spring up in respond to the overwhelming demand for transport and accommodation – Babu’s healing itself costs only 500 Tanzanian shillings (about 30 cents) but many have recognized the profit to be made surrounding him and the hordes of followers desperate for the chance to meet the faith healer. From the city of Arusha, the drive is about three hours – accompanying me is my good friend Alex Herman, a Tanzanian university student who is my teaching partner and translator during out village teachings. Having known many who have traveled to Loliondo for healing, Alex is also interested in understanding the phenomenon and graciously agreed to help me translate during my visit. Both of us have noticed Loliondo becoming a recurring theme brought up by the villagers we are working with, and we have struggled to find the appropriate way to respond to their inquiries. Many of our villagers expressed uncertainty about Loliondo, and we have done our best to emphasize the importance of continuing traditional ARV therapy regardless of their faith or disbelief.
While in Loliondo, I plan to observe the rituals and behaviors associated with the healing process, both for the healer and the follower. I plan to do a comparative analysis of these rituals with the Brazilian faith healer John of God, who I studied about and visited last year in a USC Problems without Passports class. Furthermore, I hope to conduct short interviews with other travelers to the site to better understand their health situations, beliefs about faith healing, and ultimately their motivations for traveling to Loliondo.
I am so excited to visit this site tomorrow, and I will let you know how the experience goes!