Uth's healing hands

04 June 2019 | Cultural

Christiaan Uth is Keetmanshoop's resident medicine man, native nurse and shoemaker.

Namibian Sun caught up with him at his stall and house during the second annual Nama Cultural Festival that took place over the weekend at Keetmanshoop.

His stall was frequented by numerous visitors, who listened for hours about how he mixes his medicine, as well as his tales from when he was a young boy learning at his grandmother's feet.

Uth, a retired teacher, said he started making traditional medicine at the age of five. He was taught by his grandmother who also taught him about being a native midwife or nurse.

“I caught my first baby at the age of 17. My mom was the one who gave birth. I was always very curious when my grandmother did this work and so I learned. During that day I calmed my mom and even cut the umbilical cord of my little sister,” he says as tears welled up in his eyes.

Uth, who also assisted with the birth of this second-born, 'caught' his last baby when he was a young teacher at Don Bosco Primary school in Keetmanshoop in 1977.

He said his real passion and love is traditional medicine and healing people who come to him for traditional massages.

Uth said he has helped more than three couples with fertility problems and still treats people with ailments on a daily basis.

His medicine includes the commonly known gammagoe or devil's claw and a concoction called apu or hotnotspoeier, which is commonly used for gassiness in babies and children.

“It was a love that came naturally, and from a very young age on I already felt proud of my heritage and my culture, and so have I contributed to preserve it,” he says.

Uth reminisced about how he used to take long walks into the veld with his grandmother, where they scouted for traditional herbs.

“Some of these herbs are difficult to find and some are already extinct. She taught me when the plants were growing; and she always told me that you cannot just remove the plant, you must give back to the earth, so that the earth can give again to the next generation,” he said.

Because of his love and gratitude for the earth, Uth decided to make leather copies of tortoise shells instead of using real shells.

“If all the Nama women and their daughters want tortoise shells, what will remain of our animals? It is also important that we preserve our culture through sustainable ways,” he said.

Uth also makes beautifully adorned veldskoene from sheep and goatskin, which after softer than cow and kudu leather.

“It was something that I learned from my father and grandfather. I only started in 1997, though, when after my father's death my mother gave me my father's toolbox and said she saw I could carry forth the legacy and knowledge of my father and his father,” said Uth.

JEMIMA BEUKES