The hilly countryside around Mthatha is traditional Xhosa land.
Boys riding horses
Horsemen showing their skills on the main square in front of the festival tent.
One of the traditional horsemen; he is also a healer.
Spectators getting excited.
They prepare for the ritual by chanting traditional music.
The villagers trying to get into the tent to take part in the ritual.
Sangomas, traditional healers, hold an esteemed and powerful position in southern African societies.
Sangomas are the keepers of identity, maintaining the survival and presence of indigenous music, songs and traditions of the communities.
Sangomas have played a central role in many African cultures dating back many centuries.
The rhythm of the drums plays a vital role in their ritual dances.
In their dances, they narrate the history, cosmology, and myths of their people.
Sangomas are healers, the respected guardians of knowledge and traditional medicine in Xhosa culture.
Spectator with a protective facial paint.
The village is watching the ritual.
Villagers sharing the ritual. Although many Xhosa are Christian, they also believe in their indigenous African religion.
Sangomas perform a holistic and symbolic form of healing by drawing on the embedded belief that ancestral spirits guide the living.
Their role is that of physician, counsellor, psychiatrist and priest, and people visit a traditional healer for problems ranging from social dilemmas to major medical illnesses.
Both men and women can become traditional healers.
Dancing themselves into trance
The kids are excited.
Dancing in traditional wear.
Sangoma getting into trance and thus connecting to the ancestral spirits.
Central in the ngoma religion is the shared belief in the power of the ancestors over life.
The chief of Mthata is greeted with a traditional invocation “Ah Dalibandla” while the Sangomas are in full trance.
Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
The Sangomas of Southern Africa are the traditional healers, the respected guardians of knowledge and traditional African medicine. They play an important role in society, as they are responsible for the healing of physical, emotional and spiritual illness, for rituals concerning birth and death, for narrating the history, cosmology, and myths of their tradition as well as counteracting witchcraft.
Central in their work is the belief in the power of the ancestors over life. The Sangomas not only represent the knowledge of the community but are guides helping to maintain the balance between nature, man and the spiritual world. They form the link between the living and the forebears, acting as the spirit mediums between this world and the next. Authorities in the channeling of ancestral powers, they can summon them for symbolical treatment. These complex rituals are part of festivities, by ceremonial dances, drumming and chanting the ancestors are called. Their spirits will possess the Sangomas when they work themselves into a trance, accompanied by the rhythm of the drums and the echoing of songs.
Traditions and beliefs that transcend time are now co-existing and converging with the modern world. Through their cultural practice, their ceremonial dances, their trance rituals, the Sangomas are the keepers of a differentiated identity, maintaining the survival and presence of indigenous music, songs and traditions of the rural Xhosa communities.