Nganga is derived from the Kikongo language which can be known as a herbalist or a spiritual leader in different societies, especially African societies and the African diaspora such as Cuba, Haiti and Brazil. The word Nganga can be derived from -ganga in proto-njila which is part of the early branches of the Bantu family. It can also be related to wisdom, knowledge and skill. The Nganga is used differently in different countries of the world. Each of these countries have different meanings, functions, means and use for the Nganga.
The use of the Nganga in various countries and religions:
- Africa: In Africa, the Nganga is usually a person who has been given the power to make communication with the underworld. This Nganga operates the Nkisi. He finds the causes of illness, misfortune and also social stress and he looks for methods to address these causes either by spiritual or supernatural means or through the use of medicine. In South Africa, the Nganga is known as the inyanga. He plays a medicinal part just like the sangoma who is known to deal with ancestral spirits and also divination. In Swahili, the Nganga is known as the traditional healer or physician.
- Shona N’anga/Zulu Nyanga: The Shona people are the people of Zimbabwe. In their tradition, Nganga is a traditional healer who makes use of herb combinations, spiritual guidance and religious or medical advice to heal people. The Nganga s are believed to have the powers to tell fortunes, bless, heal and even kill. During the traditional days of Zimbabwe and of present, the Nganga were the ones people ran to meet to help them with their various life matters. The Nganga are registered under the ZINATHA (Zimbabwe national traditional healers association) they are usually called upon when an ailment can’t be cured medically.
- Kongo Nganga: The Nganga of the Kongo is also a priest. During their ceremonies, the Nganga costume is made of thick white circles around the eye, a bit of red on the forehead, yellow stripes around his cheeks and color mixtures on his hand and chest. The costume of the Nganga is usually according to the Nkisi. The circles on the eye of the Nganga is for him to have the ability to see what is hidden from the normal eye. The Nganga is usually given instructions by a particular spirit
- America’s: The Nganga can be found to be used in Cuba. In Cuba it is used by the Palo Mayombe. The Palo Mayombe most common form of divination is the Nganga. The Nganga is an altar prepared with an iron cauldron whereby different items such as sticks and bones are used. The Nganga is specially built for a particular Mpungu.
The use of the Nganga by the Palo Mayombe is the most powerful eve. The Mpungu Ali known as the spirits have direct contact and doesn’t have to go through anyone. They are only summoned by the Paleros of the Palo Mayombe.