Sangoma ritual & festivity in the rural town of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The festivity was held to honor a group of visitors to the chief. Attended by a large crowd, traditional horsemen displayed their art and a group of Sangomas celebrated ancient, rural Xhosa dance rituals.
Sangomas hold an esteemed and powerful position in southern African societies. These traditional healers are the guardians of old knowledge and traditional medicine in Xhosa culture, the spirit mediums between this world and the next. 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.
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 (WHO) estimates that up to 80% of the population rely on traditional medicine as primary 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.
Authorities in the channeling of ancestral powers, they can summon the spirits for symbolical treatment. These complex rituals are part of festivities; the ancestors are called in ceremonial dancing, drumming and chanting. The spirits will possess the sangomas when they work themselves into a trance, accompanied by the rhythm of the drums and the echoing of songs.
In a powerful and deeply emotional ceremony, the sangomas and horsemen of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, celebrate at a village festivity. Through their cultural practice, their ceremonial dances, their trance rituals, the sangomas are the keepers of identity, maintaining the survival and presence of indigenous music, songs and traditions of the communities.
In a society in need of modernisation, in aspiration to leapfrog poverty, under pressure of globalisation and consumer ideologies, these rituals and beliefs activate and balance the deep desire for spiritualism, for the recognition of identity in the community.