Even prior to the process of ukuthwasa I prayed for people and had also started using iSitunywa to look into friends' lives who had come to me for consultation. I’m not too sure how everything started except that I remember quite vividly being able to tell them things about their lives which were quite precise and I had the ability to get almost trance-like whenever I started praying. A kind of fervour would overtake me and in those moments I would see visions. This is still the case even now.
Becoming a Thwasa (Sangoma Initiate)
I began having visions (dreams) of myself in the dress of a thwasa performing the dance of iZangoma (ukughida). I had on a red skirt and vest along with red ochre (ibomvu) smeared on my face & body. On my neck I had red & white beads and we were in a stadium. In the audience were my granny (uMa Shange and other people I did not recognise). Another vision I had was when I had begun the process of ukuthwasa, I saw myself standing at the entrance to a large rondavel. I was looking out over the hills and I could see this woman walking towards me from a great distance across undulating hills. As she got closer to me I could see that she had what looked like a large long scarf on her shoulders. As she got to the entrance to the rondavel this “scarf” came alive and became quite a large snake that got off her shoulders, “walked” to umsamo and curled up there almost in an upright position. It was then that I said, “Makhosi, seni fikile. Siyabonga.” Loosely translated this is “Kings you have arrived. We are thankful.” These are not the only visions, but I believe they were quite significant and they remain quite vivid with me.
When you become a thwasa, you are now considered a child in the family of the person who initiates you, in my case I became a daughter in the Makhatini household as uMakhatinini is the Sangoma who trained me. She in turn was trained by uMaNdlovu kaMngwengwe and I am now her grand-daughter. The custom is also that we are called by our surnames or a name which is revealed to your new mother. I am therefore called uDerby (my maiden name) or uBonakele which is the name that was I was given kwaMakhatini. UMaMakhathini is no longer physically with us as she passed on in 2007 and uGogo MaNdlovu passed in 2010.
I met uMaMakhatnin for the first time during a very sad but defining time in my life in 1995. My mother had been ill for about a year and a half and she was just fading away and we were getting no joy from medical doctors. I eventually confided in one of my colleagues at the cinema where I had a part time job about this pain I was carrying around. She then told me that her mother is a Sangoma. My eldest sister had stopped working in Jo’burg to come home to help look after my mom. We had never been to a Sangoma before. (My exposure & beliefs about iZangoma were as stereotypical as the stereotypes I’m trying to change here!). We went to see this woman at Mpolweni Mission just outside of Pietermaritzburg where we grew up. I don’t imagine that we had any expectations nor were we really hopeful that we would get much help but driven by desperation we were willing to try anything.
My First Consultation with a Sangoma
When we arrived she was everything but what we expected. She had no outward things on her person to indicate she was a Sangoma; she also was clean and looked like a mother. To make it even more interesting it turns out that my sister knew her from the movies. She had worked previously at the cinema when she was at university.
We went into the hut where she consulted with Amakhosi. She put on her hat which had imiyeko on nengubo yaMakhosi told us to sit down and then went into umgonqo wakhe. What happened next was quite amazing so much so that my sister and I said nothing until we got into the car to go home. Wakhuleka ezindlondlweni zakhe. (Before speaking to Amakhosi you great/call them. This can be an elaborate greeting involving the use of clan names (izitakazelo) of the ancestors.) They responded in this shrill almost whistling “voice”. I was stunned because I had never heard of aBalozi. All I knew is that iZangoma use bones to communicate. This was beyond foreign to me! Now to be able to speak directly to those who had moved on was just mind blowing. At the end of our consultation we were told something which I had never though I’d hear from a Sangoma. She told us to go home and pray. She told us that there were no medicines that she would give us today, because my mother had resisted her calling for so long and now in her time of sickness her guides had already turned away from her. (This is information I received subsequent to my mother’s death. For the life of me I can’t remember anything of what she told us except for the injunction to pray). Needless to say my mother passed away not too long after that consultation.
When I began having dreams/visions which I took notice of from about 1997/8 onwards , it was to uMakhatini that I came for interpretation and guidance. Inevitably when the call to my destiny was clearly revealed to me she took me to her mother uMaNdlovu Mngwengwe (now uGogo waseDlozini to me) who told me that I was to be a thwasa under the care of Makhatini.
My Academic Qualifications & bias
I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of KwaZulu Natal (PMB Campus). I had ambitions of becoming a CA in my pre-planned life but this was not to be. I completed my auditing articles at Gobodo Inc but did not complete the requirements for writing the board exam. From the time my gift became stronger, academics took a back seat in my life. Even now, I'm still haunted by the obsession to hold some kind of certificate as a validation for what I do. This is partly why I believe I am driven to see a day when one can obtain a degree in African phototherapy practice as a Doctor of African Medicine.