About the Series

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Synopsis (episode 1)

In much of Africa, the question for many sick people is not what made them sick, but who. Bernad’s journey for healing and answers takes us into the minds, worldviews and healing pathways for Yawo Muslims living near the small border town of Mandimba in northern Mozambique.


Released May 2016. Principle filming took place from March of 2015 to January 2016.


“Sick in Africa” will follow the lives of several Muslim Yao families living in rural Mozambique as they seek assistance for sick family members. The first episode in the documentary series focuses on an elderly man named Bernad while other episodes will introduce us to a variety of others with similar stories of illness and fear. During the course of these films other knowledgable Yawo people will explain what they believe about illnesses, taboos, reasons why they prefer one type of medical treatment over the other, etc.

The following themes will be explored:

  • Che-Mandutu-day-1-3Taboos: pregnancy/post-birth sexual taboos
  • The spirit world’s involvement in illness
  • Curses: what are common reasons for curses?, how can curses be reversed?
  • Traditional medicine: What types of healers exist? Where is medicine to be found? How did these healers find their calling?
  • Western medicine: Where is it offered?, What do people feel about going to the clinic/hospital?, What are the reasons for not going to the clinic/hospital?

Interview Subjects

Main characters

  • Bernad, an elderly Yawo man living with his family in a typical village near the border town of Mandimba in Niassa Province, Mozambique. His journey to healing and answers typifies millions of African living day to day on the edge of survival but within reach of basic health services.

Cultural advisors

    • Candulus-sick-uncle-1Sergio, a young Yawo man who lives with his wife and child in the border town of Mandimba in Niassa Province, Mozambique.
    • Candulu is another young Yawo man with one wife and child but represents a more rural existence, set about 15KM away from town. His life centers more on farming as he grows tobacco and his world is more focused on simple village life.
    • Health care providers
    • Traditional Yawo health professionals which include traditional healers (known also as herbalists or witch doctors), religious charms makers, purveyors of cures through injections, etc.
  • Western-style health care providers which include hospital employees or management and extension workers connected to the government system (mostly from  other tribes but will include some Yao)


  • 07-vacinnations-2Governments & Health Care Providers: Based on the findings of this film process, what can governments learn about local beliefs in terms of treatment and access to health care?
  • Foreign Workers: Through issues raised in this film, a greater understanding will come to those who come to Africa for volunteer or other work purposes. Rather than treat beliefs as “hocus pocus” and assume anything that doesn’t end at the hospital is superstitious, this exploratory journey will raise other issues not often considered. Issues of social inequality between patient and health care worker, poverty, overtaxed systems, non-Western methods that may already be working, spiritual insights, and more.