Museum of Man and Science – Johannesburg, South Africa - Atlas Obscura
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Johannesburg, South Africa

Museum of Man and Science

A supply store for traditional healers, this shop sells the hair of a dog--and its skin, skeleton, and reproductive organs, too. 

Traditional healing is still very popular in South Africa. Ailments are treated by an inyanga, an herbalist, who will mix and prescribe traditional remedies.

If the illness is caused not by disease but by a curse placed by a rival in love or business, then the only thing that will help is a counter-curse placed by an isangoma, or spiritual healer.

In the big city, supplies for these traditional remedies can be hard to find. Izangoma and izinyanga (both plural forms) will shop for the bones and skins of various animals, and traditional implements like gourds, iron knives, and pestles, at The Museum of Man and Science.

The Museum of Man (as it’s known) is in the center of Johannesburg’s Central Business District, flanked by mobile phone shops and clothing wholesalers, and you probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know it was there. It’s full of things that you’re unlikely to be able to buy in any other store in any other city on earth.

If you’re looking not for supplies but for a diagnosis, the proprietors will take you into a back room and roll the bones for you–a traditional technique to consult the ancestors. Based on the positions in which the bones land, they’ll be able to point you towards a remedy in the store to treat whatever ails you.