In celebration of African Religious Heritage the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics within the College of Humanities hosted a guest lecture by renowned African cultural expert and Healer Dr Victor Velaphi Otty Mkhize. The lecture was held in conjunction with the African Systems of Thought and Introduction to Religion Modules.
During the lecture, Mkhize located Nguni Mediumistic Divination within its proper socio-anthropological context and from the perspective of a practitioner and perpetual student, observer and advocate of this form of divination.
‘Divination links the worlds of dreams, visualisation, Zulu medicine with the living and the living-dead,’ explained Mkhize. ‘There is a sense in which those who are called to become diviners also become agents or narrators through which families or individuals who find themselves in situations of distress or recurring misfortune, discover a voice or voices that hold the promise of their relief, health and holistic balance.’
He identified that the journey (ukuthwasa) towards becoming a diviner/healer in Nguni Mediumistic Divination is often fraught with challenges of interpretation and contestation. This journey, Mkhize says, also involves varied ceremonial feasts that involve the slaughtering of sacrificial beasts, cleansing and the appeasement of the ancestors.
‘Ancestral Calling is a problem to many people. What makes it complicated is the fact that there is not much research that has been done on how it happens and how it affects an individual. Even if we may want to conduct such research for the purposes of understanding, it will be very difficult as such calls differ from individual to individual,’ said Mkhize.
During the lecture, he drew from his own experiences on what happened to him when such a call came and the subsequent research he ascertained from other Healers, on how they were called.
To the students, he said, ‘Culture is the product of history. It is the sum total of the people’s way of life. It is a unifying factor that contains and manifests the people’s spirituality, moral codes, traditions and customs, ethical practices, educational, political and economic systems. It is a medium through which the people’s human values are given expression.
‘Part of our responsibility is to bring back that culture, the culture of people, the culture of an African, Ubuntu and pride about who we are so as to pass it on to the next generation.’