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Ah Dalibandla - The Sangomas of Mthatha

Nathalie Bertrams | Eastern Cape, South Africa

Sangomas, traditional healers, hold an esteemed and powerful position in southern African societies.

Sangomas hold an esteemed and powerful position in southern African societies. These traditional healers are the guardians of knowledge and traditional medicine, the spirit mediums between this world and the next.

Traditions and beliefs that transcend time are now co-existing and converging with the modern world. South Africa has an estimated 200,000 sangomas and the World Health Organisation estimates that up to 80% of the population rely on traditional medicine as healthcare.

Sangomas perform a holistic and symbolic form of healing by drawing on the embedded belief that ancestral spirits guide the living. They are called to heal illness, social disharmony and spiritual difficulties and act as guides helping to maintain the balance between nature, man and the spiritual world.

In a powerful ceremony, the sangomas and horsemen of Mthatha celebrate at a village festivity. Authorities in the channeling of ancestral powers, they can summon the spirits through dancing, drumming and chanting.

Through their cultural practice, the sangomas are the keepers of identity, maintaining the survival and presence of spirituality, indigenous music and traditions of the Xhosa communities.


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