The Crown Versus Mafavuke Ngcobo

The Crown versus Mafavuke Ngcobo re-imagines a 1940 trial against a licensed traditional herbalist in South Africa accused by the local white medicinal establishment of "untraditional behavior." This film will connect with contemporary sites and practices of medicinal plant use, cultivation, distribution as well as questions around bioprospecting and commercializing indigenous knowledge in a global context.

Research tells me that the Mafavuke Ngcobo in the project’s title was a wealthy herbalist in Durban, South Africa, who operated a lucrative mail-order medicine business. Ngcobo got the attention of the white medical authorities who patrolled medical traditions in the country at the time, when he advertised himself as a "doctor." For "blurring the boundaries between Western and African medicine," Ngcobo was fined. In protest, he and other vendors formed the Natal Native Medical Association to define their right to practice, serving to increase distinctions between "black" and "white" medicines.