Sangomas innovate and connect virtually

Dumezweni in his consultation room with his technology, showing how he does thing.

In our present-day reality everything has changed, even traditional sangomas (healers) have had to innovate to survive during lockdown.

After decades in the practice, traditional sangomas are now modernising their practices, making it more accessible to even clients afar.

For them to make a living, sangomas had to find other means. It was time to innovate and include technology in their practice.

This is what a Langa couple Sdumo Viwe, known as Dumezweni and his wife, also a sangoma, Khanyisa Mtini, known as Dudulutshaba did, deciding to go online. While it is strange to African traditions and custom, to make them more accessible and to accommodate their clients, they had to embrace technology for consultation purposes. They said clients needed services and a plan had to be made.

“Due to the Covid-19 situation we were forced to change how we do things. Our clients are everywhere and they need service. There is technology. There is wi-fi and data, so the show must go on. We had to do consultations via cellphone; we had to adhere to the restrictions in place but as I have said, clients had to be given the service,” said Dumezweni in his consultation room.

He and his wife run their practice in the top room of their tiny flat in Langa. He is not amazed by the change. He said he saw it coming – that technology would take over at some point.

But how is the connections with ancestors and bones during the video consultation, we wanted to know? “The connection is not the same but the bones give guidance,” he told Vukani. “But there is something lacking because if the person was right next to me, there would be that spiritual connection. The ancestors would connect more and scrutinise the client better. But we do connect with both the ancestors and the clients,” he said.

Gogo Dudulutshaba started virtual consultations a while ago. She said she consulted with the ancestors and the idea was bought. “The only thing that is important is the money that the client should put down before consultation. We did that via the bank. I would withdraw it and put it on the mat for the bones and ancestors to see that the person has paid the consultation fee. Actually this has empowered us in a way,” she said.

With practice there is more, there are also candles to light. She said they always help her to connect with the ancestors. “In order for me to connect spiritually with the ancestors, I use candles. I know the meaning of the colours of these candles. I know what green, blue and black candles mean and its work,” she said.

They both agreed that safety protocols had to be practised and restrictions should be respected by all.

They, however, feel hard done by that traditional sangomas were never given a chance to find a cure for the coronavirus. They are happy though to be able to use technology to still service their clients.