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Sangoma with snakes


A British girl came out to Zululand to organise filming of a
National Geographic documentary on snakes in Africa. Specifically,
she was interested in filming a powerful local Sangoma, KheKheKhe,
who incorporates snakes into his ritual. He even puts black and
green mambers, and puff adders, heads in his mouth ..

We (Graham, myself, and Mitch) took (another) gorgeous trip through
rural Zululand in search of this old man, now internationally famous.

We found our way there, passing Vultures cliff, from where legend
has it that Shaka Zulu used to throw warriors that had displeased
him. Everyone knew where KheKheKhe lived, so at the bottom of a
bumpy road we found his settlement, where his 14 wives and around
100 children lived with him. Six of the wives are three pairs
of sisters - they squabble less that way.

He was sitting on the grass, with a queue of patients waiting for
a moment of his (expensive) time. He was busy all day. We dealt
with wife number 11, herself also a Sangoma. Graham explained our
business in fluent Zulu, and requested we confirm a date, as
the film crew would be on a tight schedule, and a price.

We knew it would be expensive - Graham guessed R2500.00. He does
his quotes on little pieces of paper - it came back as R10000.00,
about $1800.00. Graham explained that we were concentrating on
the snakes, and not the other Sangomas who were promised to be a
part of the ceremony, and pleaded a price reduction - he came down
to R6000. We figured at that point that it would be best to wait
until the end of the day to discuss that matter with him personally,
rather than by proxy. We were entertained and fed by Ngqomombo
(wife #11 - the gq is a deep click in the throat) - an excellent
plate of farm-raised chicken, rice and vegetables, washed down with
beer. She showed us a picture of KheKheKhe holding a spear, which
had been bought by an American for over $5000.

Wandering around his little complex, we saw some of the kids
collecting roots and bark to be used as muti - medicine, and
pounding it down to powder and paste, to be used or sold to
customers. Ngqomombo showed us her nice new car, with cellphone
kit, and all .. The Kraal we guessed would hold 60 cows at

Eventually the man was finished with his business for the day,
and came to see us. We complimented him on his family, down to
the youngest, only 1 year old .. and after a lot of discussion
Graham, a little unwilling to barter with such a man, got him
down to R4000, and a copy of the resulting film.

We then thanked everybody (Siyabonga) and drove back a different
way through the beautiful Zululand countryside, with views of
the mighty Tugela River, the historical divide between the
Zulus and the British.

Cheers,    Andy!

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Andy Rabagliati  .  andyr@wizzy.com  .  http://www.wizzy.com/andyr/