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Monday, October 2, 2023

OMOBARI OMOTWE: The Ancient Kenyan Traditional Gusii Head surgeons who performed craniotomy


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Long before the advent of Western medicine and surgery in Africa, the Omobari Omotwe; were African head surgeons who used to perform craniotomy on their patients. They hailed from South West Kenya within the Gusii tribe and their  skill was acquired through apprenticeship.

These head surgeons used to perform surgeries by resolving the cranial trauma and post-traumatic headaches. The surgeries are called craniotomy as it is the surgical removal of part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain. The Omobari recorded outstanding success in their craft.

OMOBARI OMOTWE: The Ancient Kenyan Traditional Gusii Head surgeons who performed craniotomy
A patient that has gone under the Omobari knife

According to GetembeTv, For a person to acquire the specified skills of becoming an Omobari Omotwe; he was required to have dedication, determination and hard work. Because the task required precision as a patient could lose his/her life if the surgery goes  wrong. An Omobari Omotwe conducts prayers before carrying out the surgery. He offers a prayer for guidance and then palpates the head of the patient to pinpoint the spot on the head where the incision will be made.

Herbal concoctions were also offered to the patient before, during and after the operation; in order minimize pain, boost immunity, sterilize the open flesh and to stop/control bleeding. The bleeding is stopped, in order to prevent  patient from perceiving the smell of blood; which could have a nauseating effect on the patient and could lead to he/she passing out.OMOBARI OMOTWE: The Ancient Kenyan Traditional Gusii Head surgeons who performed craniotomy

The two types of Head Surgeries Conducted by the Omobari Omotwe

Cranial Trauma

A cranial trauma occurs only after a direct blow to the head by use of blunt objects. To counter the effects of this, a skilled Omobari carefully and precisely cuts his way into the patient’s skull of the affected. This helps to remove the bone flap which is fractured and smoothen out the fractured edges; to allow the affected area to heal. This procedure comes out with a high success rate; causing the surgeons and that is why they are highly respected for their job.

Post Traumatic Head aches

On this Omobari Omotwe tend to carefully tow the lines by examining the head critically so as to identify which point on the head to open in order to resolve the case in question.  Once Omobari is satisfied with the site located, he employs his homemade tools in digging into the area beneath the skull in his bid to drain out what has been named “bad blood”. This is most probably non-circulating blood collected in an area beneath the skull that has gone bad. A critical examination of the site is also carried out to make sure there are no fractured bone fragments as  these can puncture delicate blood vessels and lead to the same or more complicated medical conditions.OMOBARI OMOTWE: The Ancient Kenyan Traditional Gusii Head surgeons who performed craniotomy

Success Radar

After the operations there are no known infection cases over the Omobari’s art that is according to Furnas et al (1985). Furnas stated that the Omobari’s work was neat and orderly when engaged during their line of duty.

Their Maasai neighbours are known to visit the Kisii’s Omobari for treatment on occasions. The procedure is again believed to have a placebo effect; as this would only happen with one’s belief on the treatment. So the Omobari and his team of medical specialists do not only resolve the physiological anomaly associated with the reported cases but its psychological dimensions.


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