African spirituality: Sangomas and ancestral callings were some of 2022's hottest topics

24 December 2022 - 10:00
By Constance Gaanakgomo
Poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai called Zodwa Wabantu out for dancing half naked with her ancestral beads on
Image: Twitter Poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai called Zodwa Wabantu out for dancing half naked with her ancestral beads on

African spirituality has been a hot and contentious issue this year, especially after Zodwa Wabantu caused a stir.

The star sparked debate after a video clip emerged of her dancing at a gig in her “next-to-nothing” ensemble, accessorised with ancestral beads.

Ntsiki Mazwai was among those who questioned Zodwa's behaviour. 

These are some of the moments that unpacked our spirituality.

Zodwa  Wabantu vs Ntsiki Mazwai

“When we speak about spirituality, we speak about the spiritual realm and the realm that  deals with energy and spirits.

“So African spirituality is based on the natural science and we use our ancestors, who are our spirit guides, to communicate with the creator of man. When you respect something you go at it with a certain decorum. [With] all the other races and nations, when it comes to their spiritual masters and leaders, there is a great reverence to their work and almost a stillness around their spirituality, and it's sacred.

“So their concern about the beads being there or not when you do your job, we have women working at KFC who are wearing beads in the workplace and in corporates we have people wearing their ancestral beads. It’s just ... with me, everything that I do is taboo and it's extra.”

Ubungoma on Reality TV Shows 

In August TshisaLIVE published a series focusing on #SangomasBecomingCelebrities.

Dr Zukiswa Mvoko (Mkhulu Majola) of the African National Healers' Association says, the gift of ubungoma has been taken lightly, adding that drawing attention to tradition healing on television is unnecessary.

Speaking to TshisaLIVE about the myriad ubungoma content on channels such as Moja Love and Mzansi Magic, Mkhulu Majola said the shows jeopardise authenticity. 

“I'm not happy with the way media has broadcast the lives of sangomas. It reflects negatively on the originality of ubungoma and African healers at large. It is causing more confusion and more segregation among us as blacks, and those who are finding their way or themselves and who they are with regards to [their] spirituality.

“We need to understand the objective. Why, all of sudden, does the media want to come to us and say, 'Please come forth and tell us what sangomas do'.”

In a separate interview, reality TV star and sangoma Makgotso Lee-Ann Mokopo, popularly known as Gogo Maweni and who is among the “new age” healers who share topics related to ubungoma,  said she would not back down.

“I'm annoying some people and when you start annoying people it means you are getting to where you want to go. People must acknowledge who you are as a spirit and me being me.”

Gogo Dineo

During a panel discussion hosted by Castle Milk Stout before Ancestors' Day in April, Gogo Dineo spoke to TshisaLIVE.

The sangoma and African spiritual teacher said the most important tool on one's spiritual journey was patience. She shared important elements and where people can start if embarking on their journey.  

Your father's surname

“If you are willing to be patient and you ask where do I start, your surname, your forefathers' surnames are important. [They] retrace your genealogy, who you are.”

Be willing to be challenged

“The second thing is, when you are going through this, be willing to be challenged because the young say they are wise because you are old and outdated. I’m not outdated, I’m invested in learning.”

Become interested in learning

“So when you become interested in learning you will also be in discomfort. Yet you will still pursue your journey of understanding who you are. It is a journey which you are rewriting not only for yourself, but for those before you who have had responsibilities."