I had always known there was another world
I was born in a Christian family and naturally my parents didn’t allow much room for other ideologies as everything else outside this context would somewhat be perceived to be anti-god or evil. I don’t regret the teachings I got as they often helped me to understand the power of prayer. Parallel to that, I’m forever thankful to the surrounding communities for always highlighting alternative belief systems or at least challenge and provoked questions around what we believed in as a family.
Like I say I’m not complaining because within the Zionist mode of Christianity there are things that I never missed out on, like meditative music, hand clapping, the drum, singing and prophecies ‘esiguqweni’ which often took place on the mountain or on a hill (this is also scriptural) or ‘iladi’ as it commonly had even more goodies for us, a bit of people’s food, biscuits and sweets that as a young boy I enjoyed a lot though that meant I had to be up all night I didn’t mind but in retrospect I can just imagine how much of an inconvenience it might have been for other people in households where not everyone necessarily subscribed to this kind of belief system.
You see in the Zionist Church everything is spirit driven ‘siholwa ngumoya’ even the scriptures were improvised based on the direction of the spirit, it was more of a storytelling approach which applied very practical examples and methodologies. This made it very easy for one to absorb and imagine themselves as characters in what was being delivered or taught through a particular sermon.
There were other rituals that were practiced like cleansing rituals where evil spirits were being casted out of the body and sometimes we would hear spirits talk, I used to be very scared of this part. We also had the water rituals like baptism that took place by the lake/river (deprived of life guards since most of us including our pastors couldn’t swim) but like I say everything was led by the supreme power and people operated with a lot of faith in their hearts.
In the midst of it all this one day I had a dream, probably the most confusing one for a thirteen year old boy born in a Christian family.
I saw a group of elderly women, they were chanting melodies that sounded somewhat similar to those of ‘izangoma’ that I now and again see in my hood, they were also dressed like them carrying ‘amashoba’ except that they were slightly older and their voices were slightly deeper. Their music was very trancelike, the next thing I found myself dancing at the center of the circle shaped they had formed around me where the ritual took place. After a long ritual that included cleaning, body arts, learning of repertoires, dancing, playing of the drums and other things…
I woke up:
Upon waking up I noticed something rather strange on my body I had blisters everywhere where the wise ones had brushed me with ‘ishoba’ and according to the old ones this was I sign the I was supposed to go for my initiation ‘ukwethasa’ but prayer was the closest my ‘Christian family’ could offer, to cast out the demons that were attacking their child. By chance through the old ones, that after telling them about the dream including descriptions of how some of the ancestors looked like in the dream they could identify, relate and put connections to who they were including revealing some of their names and soon we went for consultation where we got advised accordingly, the conclusion was that after I have matriculated I would have to go for initiation. From this age I also started questioning the gap between dreams at night and the lives we live, do they sometimes overlap, do they exist parallel to each other at times, what is the connection?
About 18years later I’m a jazz musician playing the piano within the context of improvisation and also this wasn’t planned, could there be some connection even with the new definitions of the instrument that I later gravitated towards?
As usual these things are easily forgotten, now about eighteen years later I started to partially loose my sight. As expected I ran to different eye specialist but the problem persisted and I lost more and more of my eye sight every single day and the doctors kept going on about how they’ve not seen such healthy eyes in a while and it became apparent to me that they were not going to be able to help.
I remembered my teenage dream, and started seeking help in that direction. I was guided through dreams since that day, this is how ‘Listening To The Ground’ and rest of the projects afterwards came about. ‘Listening To The Ground’ payed respect to the soil as being a symbol for our ancestors and the importance of staying connected to them, it opened my dreams and became a passageway for the acceptance of the gift.
African religions or our beliefs in ancestors has never existed as an indipendent entity to that of the higher being but rather our ancestors as a link or messengers that connect us to God and God to his people. ‘Umvelinqangi’ precedes the arrival of Christianity in Africa.