Sena Voncujovi on Reclaiming Traditional African Medicine
The Ashinaga Africa Initiative is a leadership program to empower the next generation of African leaders. Graduates of the program are encouraged to return to their home countries and lead change in their communities.
Some AAI graduates pursue advanced degrees or start their jobs abroad, intending to lay a solid foundation for their careers and gain the necessary skills and expertise. Even while they are not physically on the continent, these young leaders are constantly preoccupied and invested in ways they can contribute to the growth of their countries from afar.
Recently, Mr. Sena Vancujovi talked about his engagement in the field of Western African spiritual practices to participants in an AAI graduate association online event called “Impacting the Continent from Abroad.” Mr. Vancujovi is currently working as an analyst at Development Reimagined (Beijing), specializing in global health, Africa-Japan relations, and Africa-China relations. He also works part-time as a traditional healer, keeping up a family tradition that his father passed down to him.
Mr. Vancujovi thinks of himself as an activist, striving for the political, economic, and spiritual decolonization of Africa and people of African descent. In Japan, he co-founded Jaspora, Tokyo’s largest African diaspora organization, which includes African-descent and Japanese business leaders, diplomats, change-makers, scholars, and more. He came up with the idea of Jaspora while working at Ashinaga, where he had the opportunity to participate in many Africa-related events. Mr. Vancujovi noticed that the narration was usually from a Western perspective. He thus felt the need to have more African voices to create opportunities and share resources for people of African descent and their allies in Japan. He believes this is going to lead to the kind of development that Africans want to see on their continent.
His other organization is Revodution, an initiative to digitally preserve and demystify the traditions of Ewe Vodu (commonly referred to as Voodoo). His mission is to educate the world about West African spiritual practices. Mr. Vancujovi recently graduated from Peking University, where he studied the modernized traditional Chinese medicine industry. With his knowledge, he hopes to learn how African countries can integrate traditional medicine and healers into their health care systems.
Mr. Vancujovi’s journey into studying and educating about African spiritualism was not easy. When he sought scholarship support, Western organizations were skeptical of his projects, labeling traditional medicine “unscientific and dangerous.” He eventually applied to a program in China, a country with a strong tradition in herbal medicine. He was admitted to the University of Beijing and won second prize for best thesis in African Studies.
Drawing from his personal experience, Mr. Vancujovi advised AAI students to never give up on their ambitions: “You will encounter a lot of failures. It’s important to think of who you surround yourself with; if you listen to the narrative saying that what you do is impossible, then that is what you will believe. However, if you put yourself into a supportive environment, it will push you forward.”