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"Melanie Reeder-Powell spent her childhood in the politically turbulent Transkei in the 1980s, before completing her schooling in Port Elizabeth, and then Colorado in the US. She went on to obtain degrees in media studies, English literature, and publishing, from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes, and Wits University respectively.
Her career has always flitted between print media and tertiary education, having written and edited for magazines and newspapers including Longevity, Elle, Marie Claire, Food & Home Entertaining, Grazia, and the Mail & Guardian. As far as education is concerned, she has been involved in numerous Adult Basic Education and Training projects across the Eastern and Western Cape, and has lectured undergraduate English literature and literary theory.
It was on a travel assignment for a magazine in the KZN Midlands where she encountered Elliot Ndlovu, a traditional healer (sangoma and inyanga) who had a remarkable tale to tell.
She pitched her idea to Penguin Books, and soon packed up her life in the Big Smoke of Johannesburg for a three-year sojourn to Kwa-Zulu Natal to write the life story of Elliot Ndlovu. The majestic Kamberg Valley in the Drakensburg Mountains proved a fitting backdrop for this narrative journey, as she attempted to unpack the stereotypes, mystery, and misrepresentations surrounding South Africa’s traditional healers.
Mr Ndlovu proved to be a fascinating subject, with his tales of holding counsel with Thabo Mbeki, meeting Queen Elizabeth and exhibiting his indigenous plants at the Chelsea Flower Show, and attending a pre-Academy Awards Hollywood event.
Melanie also journeyed with him to the place of his uThwasa, the necessary period of mental illness and spiritual upheaval which all sangoma’s must endure. The violence and bloodshed of a politically-charged Kwa-Zulu Natal created an appropriate back story to Mr Ndlovu’s own personal turmoil.
The book, A Sangoma’s Story, went on to receive favourable media attention from reputable critics and outlets such as Jenny Cryws-Williams and Kate Turkington on 702, The Sunday Times, The Herald, The Mercury, and was showcased at The London Book Fair.
After a three-year break to raise her two small children, Melanie is now co-owner of The Food Fundi, an Eat Out magazine award-winning daytime restaurant, and she lectures part-time to Bachelor of Arts students at the Nelspruit Campus of the Midrand Graduate Institute.