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Gogo Thokozile, 29-year-old Johannesburg-based traditional healer.

Millennial Traditional Healers Moving African Spirituality Forward

As Black Africans, seeking alternative methods of healing is foundational to our rich culture — something that should never be shrouded in shame.

Traditional healers have been, and remain, a fundamental part of African spirituality and culture. Long before Western medicine, and even after its continued medical breakthroughs, many Black Africans still seek healing from those who have been afforded the gift to heal and guide. And while the faces of these healers have oftentimes, throughout the years, been those of much older men or women, more and more young people are embracing their ancestral calling.


​​A MILLENNIAL TOUCH​​

In the age of social media and instant access to information, millennial traditional healers have the ability to dispel many of the aspersions cast on their practise and to set the record straight. This, is something popular traditional healer Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi does well.

Among the many millennial traditional healers, are South African celebrities such as rapper Boity Thulo,actress Letoya Makhene,actor and musician coupleDineo and Solo Langa, musician Phelo Bala and many others. When Thulo shared her journey to accepting ubungoma (the calling) in 2016, the gesture was met with backlash from those who accused her of using the sacred practice to further her career. However, healing lies in the hands of the chosen, regardless of celebrity status. In a recent interview with TimesLIVE, Thulo shared: "I don't have any regrets about letting people in. I took a huge risk because back then, people wouldn't have revealed much about this aspect of their lives — preferring instead to keep it private."

To those on the outside, the world of traditional healing remains in many ways shrouded in misconceptions and inaccuracies. This is largely due to the often sensationalised media depictions, as well as the lasting impact of colonial and Apartheid legacies — and perhaps, even, the shame exhibited by Black Africans when it comes to speaking freely about believing in traditional healing.

Livy Nnene, a South African millennial traditional healer shares: "A lot of millennials who have undergone this rite of passage (similar to mine) are open to a lot of things." He continues: "There are a lot of misconceptions about the practice and I don't blame people. When there's a lot going on and no one is explaining, people come up with thousands of 'it could be this or it could be that'. But these days, you can learn more about traditional healing on TV, or just by logging onto YouTube. People are definitely talking about it more."

Johannesburg-based Nnene embraced his calling to become a traditional healer after a long battle with mental health issues that Western medicine found no resolutions for. "You start having these very violent dreams that add on to your depression and anxiety. You end up thinking you're crazy! For the first time you try to understand your life and what's going on [with you] as a Black person by consulting a traditional healer. That's when I found out that actually I had a calling that I needed to pursue. From there, things kind of started falling into place."

IT'S ALL IN A NAME

Traditional, or indigenous, healing generally encompasses two broad groups of healers — izangoma and izinyanga. The differences between the two remain disputed even among traditional healers themselves. Isangoma is usually believed to practise in the realm of the spiritual — diagnosing illness, calamity and bad luck through assessing a person's relationship with their ancestors, friends, family or associates. Inyanga, on the other hand, is believed to treat or even cure illness using natural remedies. However, for Nnene, the difference between isangoma and inyanga is merely a graduation from one level to another. "Isangoma is an initiate. Once you have passed all the stages and are now out on your own, you stand as inyanga."

Another South African millennial traditional healer, Lesego Ntsime, begs to differ. "I would definitely say they are quite different because they delve into a different faculty altogether." She goes on to explain: "Isangoma is someone who divines. They get messages from above, from the ancestors and from God to relay to the person. Inyanga is somebody who heals through African traditional medicine or herbs. So it is quite different."

Language is important, and names even moreso. When we name things a certain way, there's usually an agenda there — good or bad. It is no surprise then that colonialism and the Apartheid government played a significant role in how traditional healers were, and still are, perceived. Under Apartheid, there existed the Witchcraft Supression Act 3 of 1957 which made it unlawful for "anyone to engage in witchcraft or similar practices where one pretended or professed to use supernatural powers". In an effort to vilify the practise, and make it synonymous with dark magic, 'witch doctor' is one of the many terms used consistently and interchangeably with 'traditional healer"'.

29-year-old traditional healer Gogo Thokozile detests the term 'witch doctor', saying it implies that her work is dark when it, in fact, is quite the opposite. "For some reason, people think that if you're able to communicate with people who are no longer alive, you are demonic. We constantly have to explain that we are actually light workers — which is tiring. People just don't believe our gift is from God."

THE SHAME IN CONSULTING

A traditional healer dressed in red and black traditional gear.

Gogo Phephisile Maseko, 44, traditional healer and national coordinator of the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO) of South Africa attends to patients on October 1, 2018 using a blend of cannabis and other herbs in a consultation room at their offices in Johannesburg.

Photo by GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images.

The vilifying of traditional healers has, in some sense, ascribed a feeling of shame to the practice — especially for those wanting to consult. This has, in turn, created a never-ending tension between Western and indigenous medicine. People often feel that the two are mutually exclusive and that there is no chance for collaboration! That shouldn't be the case though, argues Gogo Thokozile. "I don't think people should be choosing. I'm married. When I met my husband, he wasn't a believer of anything traditional. Whenever he'd get a headache, I'd offer him umuthi (traditional medicine) which works for my headaches, but he actually preferred tablets. I think it also goes with your belief. I think that when you're sick and you don't know what's wrong with you, you must go to a doctor and get a proper diagnosis — but also go the traditional healing route. You can believe in healing spiritually but also seek treatment from doctors."

It is exactly this kind of philosophy, in addition to being able to speak freely on social media platforms, that sets millennial traditional healers ahead of their older predecessors. At the centre of millennials delving into the healing space is the understanding that their lives are not consumed by it and that they are still multidimensional individuals outside of their practice. Healing during the millennial era has also offered freedoms to healers which were not previously available to them. "I would say izangoma from previous eras did not seem to have lives of their own. It was very much "I'm [just] doing the healing work 24/7," says Ntsime. She adds: "What I do love about this age is that we're beginning to see traditional healers who enjoy other facets of their lives outside being healers. When you step out of the scared space where you conduct your healing work, you become your own person." The work of a traditional healer requires a careful balance that results from a constant give and take, particularly when there are careers and interests outside of the practice. Nnene, for instance, graduated with his law degree in 2018 with all the excitement that comes with a first job — an apartment and other luxuries enjoyed by working individuals. "Life was great. As young people, we're all chasing 'the good life'," he says. In his case, however, traditional healing eventually took precedence over his law career. "Mentally I wasn't in a good place. I decided to quit my job and try to focus more on myself. I am now more focused on my traditional healing and my law career had to take a back seat."

Healing work is certainly not without its own challenges. There is often an unreasonable expectations for traditional healers to be available to others around the clock. "When you're out in your personal capacity, just trying to have a good time over a couple of drinks with friends, people want to try and impose their problems on you. Then when you express that it is neither the time nor the place, people take offence to that. Those are just some of the struggles, but it comes with the job."

RECLAIMING HEALING

Part of reclaiming our healing as Africans begins with casting away the shame associated with consulting traditional healers. This shame exists for a number of reasons. One of them being that Black people who subscribe to the Christian faith, especially, have often been forced to choose between their cultural practices and the church's teachings — with no room to practise both. "What I know about Christianity is that you pray and leave it up to God," Gogo Thokozile says. "Christianity believes that once you consult a traditional healer, then it's out of God's way — and so you're forbidden from doing that. You're actually supposed to pray about everything." The second reason is that because of the vilification of traditional healing as a whole, people are apprehensive about being perceived differently after consulting. In many ways, because of Western ideals around healing, there's a deep-rooted fear that consulting a traditional healer is barbaric.

What is apparent from Nnene, Gogo Thokozile and Ntsime anecdotes is that a traditional healer can be seen as both a burden and a privilege, with the latter often revealing itself in those that benefit from the healing they receive. "We also have our bad days. Then out of the blue, a patient will call to share how you really helped them. Learning that things are finally working out, whatever problem they came to you with, is so fulfilling," concludes Gogo Thokozile.

News Brief
Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

South Africa Shocked After DJ Sumbody's Fatal Shooting

The popular Amapiano pioneer, DJ Sumbody, was tragically killed in Johannesburg.


News recently broke that the well known South African Amapiano music producer Oupa John Sefoka, popularly known as DJ Sumbody passed awaythis past Sunday, November 20th.

The family reported that specific details of DJ Sumbody's passing could not be released because the issue was a part of a larger, ongoing investigation.

"Artist and musician DJ Sumbody has died. Details of his untimely death cannot be released but the artist allegedly ran into an unfortunate incident that led to his passing in the early hours of Sunday morning, November 20 2022," the family released in a statement, according to News24.

According to several unconfirmed reports, the renowned South African DJ was traveling on Woodmead road in Johannesburg when gunmen attacked his vehicle with a hail of bullets, which instantly killed him and one of his bodyguards.

He was en route to perform at an event in Woodmead for the All White Veuve Clicquot Picnic on Sunday. Apart from being an Amapiano pioneer, DJ Sumbody was a creative force in the South African entertainment industry. In the early hours of Sunday, Sumsounds Music, his management team, confirmed the news.

DJ Sumbody was a pioneer of the well-known viral Amapiano sound, a word that translates to "the pianos" in Zulu and is an eclectic genre that started in South Africa in 2012 and fuses house, jazz and lounge music for a unique sonic experience.

During the pandermic, OkayAfrica featured him in the pieceDJ Sumbody Is Ensuring Amapiano Stays Alive During Times of Coronavirus and Social Distancing.

Social media users went online to share their shock about the unfortunate event.

Music

Listen to Sho Madjozi's New Single 'Toro' Featuring DDG

The talented South African rapper Sho Madjozi comes through with a confident new track.

South African rap star Sho Madjozi just shared her latest single, "Toro," featuring DDG via Epic Records.

The critically acclaimed artist first burst into the music scene in 2017 and became an act to watch because of her unique flow, and her keen eye for vibrant fashion styles that fused traditional African attires with modern spins.

"Toro" is the rapper's first English release since "John Cena," a record that quickly became a viral sensation after its release. Over the years, the rapper has continued to push the envelope and sonically break barriers by experimenting with her flow, cadence, and structure. On this record, fellow Epic Records signee DDGalso makes an appearance, and the two ride the wave of the beat in a memorable way.

The song has a noticeable Amapiano beat, a genre increasingly gaining traction on the modern African music scene. While talking about the song, Sho Madjozi shared that it speaks to the complexity of human relationships and how the bad endings of relationships, both platonic and romantic, can be an eye-opening experience.

" 'Toro' is short for 'Mtoroki,' meaning an 'escaper.' I've escaped bad managers, bad lovers and still come out as me," Sho Madjozi mentions. "I even defy convention because I say and do what I like. However, this music video is part 1 of this story. The thing around my neck stands for my gift—the thing that has given me my success. The video makes a statement about how isolating fame can be: how friends, managers, etc., have backstabbed me. By the end of this video, I'm disillusioned with fame and wishing I didn't have this gift at all because it's made me lose touch with closest to me and probably even myself."

So far, Sho Madjozi has received a lot of critical acclaim, awards, and recognition, including "Favorite African Star" at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, "Best New International Artist" at the BET Awards, "Entertainer of the Year" from Forbes, and more.

The music video for "Toro," also released earlier today, chronicles a dance party that initially starts with people having a good time until chaos breaks out. Watch the clip below.

Sports
(Photo by via Getty Images)

The Other African Footballers in the World Cup

There are five African teams in the World Cup, but there are at least 54 players on other teams who were either born in Africa, or have African ancestry.

Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are the five African teams in the World Cup in Qatar, but there are at least 54 players on other teams who were born in Africa or have African ancestry.

This is, of course, the result of the African diaspora, the movement of people from the continent towards the rest of the world. But the stories of how African players or their families got to the other side of the world are not always so stereotypical as one might imagine. The world cup, besides a month of football, is also a way to find out about how humans move through the world. Here are a few:

One of the most talked about stories in this tournament is that of Breel Embolo, who was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, but represents the Swiss national team and refused to celebrate after scoring against his country of birth last week. Embolo scored the only goal in the 1-0 Switzerland victory. It was the first goal he ever scored in a world cup, and the video of it went viral. But it wasn’t because of his technique, it was because he refused to celebrate.

Embolo moved to France when he was six years old because his mom, who had separated from his dad, went to study there. She met a Swiss man and married him, and the family eventually moved to Switzerland when the now Monaco forward was still a kid. So when he scored for his adopted country against Cameroon, he decided to stop and hold his arms up while his teammates celebrated around him.

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Arts + Culture
Photo: Courtesy Wangechi Mutu and Vielmetter Los Angeles, taken by Robert Edemeyer

A Massive Exhibition of Wangechi Mutu's Work Is Heading to the New Museum

A specially-commissioned art piece from the Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist will be part of the major overview of her work.

In what is set to be one of the largest showings of the artist's work, the New Museum in New York will present “Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined,” from March 2 – June 4, 2023. The art works will cover the entire museum, occupying the three main floors, including the lobby, and the building’s glass façade, where a new piece that's been commissioned will be displayed.

Earlier this year, eight of Mutu’s sculptures were installed at the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York, showcasing her current practice in earth and bronze material.

Mutu’s upcoming New Museum exhibition is curated by Vivian Crockett, Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring and Ian Wallace. According to the curators, “Intertwined” will chronicle Mutu’s recent sculptural development, and connect it to her long standing expression and exploration of the legacies of colonialism, globalization, in African and diasporic cultural traditions.

The upcoming exhibition will highlight some of Mutu’s earlier art, as well as her most recent artistic outputs, which are primarily made from Nairobi-sourced wood, soil and bronze.

“Intertwined” will give art lovers the opportunity to see and appreciate the thematic progression of Mutu’s work, and get a sense of how New York-based art institutions have influenced the scope of her artistry over time.

Different floors at the museum will carry various parts of Mutu’s multi-dimensional work. The second floor, for example, will draw connections between the artist’s collage-based practice and her work in sculpture, including 'Yo Mama' (2003), originally commissioned by the New Museum in 2003 for the exhibition “Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.”

This exhibition on the second floor will also underscore some of her more recent work, which experiments with collages in corporeal, mechanical, and botanical forms. The third floor will continue to explore the fluidity of Mutu’s work and how her pieces have evolved over time.

The fourth floor will tie a collection of Mutu’s collages from the 'Subterranea' series (2021–22) with her most recent large scale bronze art.

In a statement, Crockett said Mutu’s work has wrestled with themes and complex artistic principles that make it even more important for the future of art as a whole. “Mutu’s work has long been characterized by a sense of permeable boundaries and hybridity, invested in the complex encounters of bodies, sites, and structures. Her work grapples with contemporary realities and proffers new models for a radically changed future informed by feminism, Afrofuturism, and interspecies symbiosis,” said Crockett.

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