#HERITAGEMONTH: Healers shift perceptions

“VUMANI bo!” a sangoma, usually a black African in beads and skins in a dark room, proclaims to his clients, who promptly respond with “Siyavuma”.

“Vumani bo!” means dare to agree to the sangoma, while the responsive “Siyavuma” translates to an acknowledgement or agreement with the traditional healer. It is unusual when these words come from non-black Africans, and Quinton “Bertram” Fredericks and Rabi Thobelithongo are coloured and white Capetonians, respectively, who practise as sangomas.

The heritage month is important for sangomas, according to traditional healers. Yesterday the country celebrated African Traditional Medicine day. After a near-death experience in the mid 1990s, Fredericks met a sangoma who told him about his calling. Adamant he was no sangoma prospect, he refused to become an “ithwasa” (initiate), eventually heeding his calling after a life of crime and drugs in Heideveld.

“I’m completely welcomed (by other sangomas), I’m a part of the community,” said Fredericks.

He said his churchgoing family initially saw his journey as evil, but he had taught them about traditional medicine. “Of course I have ancestors, and I channelled a number of spirits at the time. My mother, my father and my late brother and sister and the spirit of a Native American called Black Hawk, the spirit of a priest and an imam. Effectively, I have eight ancestral spirits.”

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