Every year, Sangomas outside Eshowe hold a ceremony to honour their ancestors and strengthen bonds between those of like professions. I have written about Sangomas before - Khekhekhe’s First Fruits ceremony. I was in Zululand again for two weeks, to attend the Umgido Umkhulu - a ceremony co-hosted by Mama Cebekhulu, who is a teacher of a friend of mine Karen. Karen is doing another stage of her Sangoma apprenticeship- as a Twasa (student) of Mama Cebekulu.
- In 1999 I visited Khekhekhe with Graham, to negotiate a price for National Geographic to do a piece on him. I wrote up that encounter at the time. Khekhekhe held a ceremony on the 23rd of Feb every year - which he called the First Fruits ceremony. It seemed really to be a time for the old Mthethwa Sangomas to get together, Khekhekhe to show his prowess with snakes, and some beasts to die for the table.
- Folks, You remember Khekheke. The camera-man for National Geographic, with the rest of the crew, spent that evening in the bar at the George Hotel, where we discussed the day’s events. He said that he had been worried on occasion when snakes had been tossed at his feet - his field of vision was limited by the camera lens, and he hoped someone else was watching the snakes.. He also mentioned another Sangoma they had met in Johannesburg - who had defied his teachers and had published a book on what he had learned.
- Folks, I hitched back from Swaziland, and got back in time for a visit to KheKheKe - the Zululand Sangoma near the Tugela river. The National Geographic film crew had showed up, and we set off on Tuesday to his Kraal. the film is called “Snakes of Africa”, and our interest in KheKheKe was his use of snakes during his rituals. He had collected several local Sangomas to be a part of the ceremonies, and after a nice lunch and a beer, and selection of a site for filming, the action began .
- Folks, 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.
- Folks, I spent the last week in the Transkei, the largest of the old black homelands. It is ‘back to africa’ from the luxuries of RSA, with most of the people living in round mud huts with thatched roofs. I spent a night with a Sangoma - one of the Xhosa herbalists, who study for a long time to gain the knowledge passed down through Sangomas before them. Our student Sangoma is a white guy who has lived in the Transkei for about three years, and has a good command of the language.