It was the early 80’s; the tension was high. I was sent to the Eastern Cape, because the everyday riots were no longer tolerable. I cushioned under the care of my gogo, and then spread my wings back to Cape Town. Only to find my wings clipped by the ravages of a broken world, and my broken heart. I was tossed into a world that claimed me as a Sangoma, derailed by my choices and the choices of others (luckily my mom refused for me to take the path without education, she pleaded with the ancestors to wait), but then pulled by God into the most unlikely place with unlikely people. A perfect recipe for grace.
Thrown into this world
Life in the village among 15 grandchildren was exciting and yet challenging for the kid who grew up in bustling Cape Town. I can describe my life as fairly well off, as I did not lack anything growing up. My dad worked for Eskom and my mom worked for herself as a Sangoma. I witnessed her life before me and so, for as long as I can remember, I knew who I was. And I had a destiny. I too wanted to be a Sangoma.
The heritage of being a Sangoma (A South African traditional healer or shaman) was in my bones and blood. My mother was the firstborn of four children, three of whom had given in to the calling of being Sangomas. My mom’s mom also had the calling, along with three of her siblings. In my dad’s family – my great aunt, as well as my aunt. We were surrounded.
It was my fate.
And my life affirmed my destiny. I was a dreamer. Every single night I had dreams about my calling and visions of things that would happen in the family and my surroundings. I even donned a new name in the family – they called me Joseph. At times this calling felt exhilarating, but very often it felt burdensome. Heavy to carry.
I was thrown into a world.
Family tussles were not your average run-of-the-mill, had I done my homework type stuff. No, my life was embroiled in arguments with the ancestors to delay my entry, so I could have the backbone of an education.
A brief encounter and then it all unravelled
But in the Eastern Cape, there was a whole new dynamic. Church was a must. And so I begrudgingly went, to avoid a hiding on Monday. I made sure my classmates saw me. Aside from the legalism, my grandmother was a testimony to a heartfelt love for the Lord. And yet, it still felt like I participated in the daily Lord’s Prayer, and cleaned the church to please her. It was just that brief encounter that I had with the church. When she passed away, I made my way back to the city. And then my life began to unravel.
I arrived to discover my parents divorced. Home was divided. Overnight I became mother to my six siblings. We chose to live with our mother, who was away, despite the cultural norm that children of a marriage live with their fathers. With her not being around, this meant freedom. But that freedom came at a cost. At 18 I found myself pregnant. By the age of 21, I had a second child and this left me hustling. After never being in need, I know began to sell alcohol (Mqombothi..an African sorghum beer) and meat (sheep heads called smileys) to fill our tummies.
And then God brought me to a place of fear, uncertainty and isolation.
It was 1995; I was invited to church by a friend in site b Khayelitsha. The visit promised clothes, food, and the prospect of an overseas trip related to training in the world of performing arts, to bring back to the townships.
I came face to face with what felt like isolation and uncertainty on steroids, despite all the people around me.
The church was part of a ministry called Khayelitsha Ministries, under the leadership of a lady called Laura Haas. We were taken to YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Muizenberg. Where was that? I didn’t even know it existed. I thought it was overseas, despite it being a 20-minute drive. The extent of isolation I had been in sunk deep. It was a place filled with white people. What I knew of white people, was that if you dreamt of one you had a nightmare. And now it looked like I was living one. They were everywhere.
What do I do when I get there? I decided to sing, and the giggles and murmurings of small children, stung. Anger boiled inside me. This unfamiliar place, with unwelcoming people left me so defensive, I even threatened to punch some of them if they refused to stop.
Compound that with a language barrier. I did not speak English at all.
Where was I? How did I even get to this place? Who are these people? I was angry, isolated, fearful, and had no way of leaving. I was stuck.
It sounds a like a recipe for disaster. Or a recipe for the grace of God. An unlikely woman, in an unlikely place. God had bought me there.
To be continued…