They embrace the Bwiti belief system - a religious discipline involving tribal rituals to promote spiritual growth. Key to such ceremonies is the use of ibogaine, a psychoactive substance taken from the rainforest shrub Tabernanthe iboga. Large enough doses of the drug can lead to bouts of anxiety, visions, hallucinations and intense episodes of introspection. The Babongo cultivate and consume the bark of the plant in a rite of passage that leads to adulthood, or "rebirth". It gained notoriety with Bruce Parry's decision to undergo the induction - resulting in a gut-wrenching ordeal for the presenter in the BBC 2 series, Tribe. Yet the show not only shed light on the serious risks involved in its use, but also the accompanying potential to engender positive and profound change in an individual.
Parry was clearly moved by his experience and the reflective thought the drug induces. The idea I had for Soul Lifter was to turn this outcome on its head, and provide a scenario where the urge to turn over and dwell in the past was replaced with the gift of powerful foresight, created by a ceremony that produces a number of unexpected consequences. It provides two of the main characters with new abilities, which they choose to employ in very different ways.
In reality, it is the inward-looking properties of the hallucinogen which have caught the attention of the wider world and how they could be employed in medicine, and more specifically, drug rehabilitation. Back in 1962, Howard Lotsof, an American heroin addict, took it to get high, but found, when its psychoactive effects had faded, that he no longer had the urge to take heroin. Lotsof became active in promoting Ibogaine for the purposes of treating addiction, and although evidence of successful treatments in clinical trials can be found, moves to make the drug more widely available appear to have been hamstrung by the pharmaceutical companies’ view that such a venture would not be profitable.
Meanwhile, ibogaine has been used for centuries in Africa and demonstrates what can still be learnt from the practices of even the most remote tribes.