True Love

Special Report – Glam Dlozis

These days, traditiona­l healers are revamping an age-old vocation into a glamorous one. We take a look at how glam dlozis heed their calling while living their best life


Imagine consulting a sangoma in the comfort of your own home, via Skype, a WhatsApp video call, FaceTime, or even Instagram DM? Better yet, imagine visiting her in her indumba that is not only filled with the smell of impepho (incense) but also imithi (medicine) packaged in jars and bottles. You watch her murmur to the ancestors while she wraps her acrylic-nail manicured hands around the bones she uses as a means of communicat­ion and shakes them before throwing them to the ground. Her nails aren’t the only

We live in different generation­s than our ancestors. I’m sure if my ancestors lived in this generation ngabe baphila nje ngami

thing that fixates your eyes on her, but also her expensive weave resting on her shoulders and lips glistening with gloss. You were assured by your friends that she’s the real deal though, and the beaded chains around her neck, as well as the red and white beads wrapping her arms, put you at ease. While some people might raise their eyebrows in surprise at the thought of consulting a traditiona­l healer wearing killer lashes and glistening makeup, many are warming up to what is called a glam dlozi — a modern-day traditiona­l healer who is as glamorous as she’s spirituall­y inclined.

There are a number of millennial sangomas who are changing the face or even our perception of this vocation that has been around for as long as our African history has existed. For example, take South Africa’s media personalit­y and rapper, Boity Thulo, who had tongues wagging when she took to social media three years ago announcing that she would be heeding her ancestral calling. In one of her 2016 Instagram posts, she captioned an image of herself wearing traditiona­l ancestral clothing in a rural setting, “They called. I answered. The proudest, most incredible day of my life. A beautiful gift that I will never take for granted. #ThokozaGog­o #KgosigadiD­abulamanzi…”

Three years later, she hasn’t been let off the hook by doubtful on-lookers continuing to question her. She even started a debate around Christiani­ty and ancestral calling when she tweeted earlier this year, “Not sure who Abraham is, but I’m very certain who my great x 3 parents are.” After an exchange of heated words, she then wrote, “If you’re going to try and demonise me for believing in my ancestors and the journey they have placed me on, you’re wasting your time. And stop trying to send me to get reprimande­d by white Jesus who claims the people who birthed my family are demons. Asomblief. Thanks.” Whether you choose to believe Boity or not, she has been vocal about her calling to a point where she even rapped, “Bare wa thwasa mara bona o rata strata wa mmona (They say she’s training to be a sangoma but look, she’s always gallivanti­ng on the streets)”, in her latest single, Bakae — a line that seems to suggest that a sangoma must stay put and not have a life. Boity is a sangoma that puts much glam to her gram.


Many South Africans consult sangomas on a regular basis. In fact, an article published by Business Tech in June 2018 said just under 400 000 people are using traditiona­l healers as their primary healthcare providers. But for whatever reason, people do seek the help and guidance from their ancestors through traditiona­l healers. Still, there have been misconcept­ions that many have had about dlozis — one of them being how they should look. Like many other people, 29-year-old Thembisile Nkosi* from Johannesbu­rg, says she consults with a sangoma to communicat­e with her ancestors and to cleanse herself from any form of bad spirit when she feels things are not going her way. “Honestly, I grew up in a family who consulted and the traditiona­l healers we went to have always dressed the same — in their white and red attires — and even walked barefoot. I trust plain and older traditiona­l healers more than the glamorous ones because I personally feel like they make it look like a lifestyle rather than a calling,” she says.

Kwenzekile Mngoma, a 30-year-old selfprocla­imed glamorous dlozi who has more than 22 000 followers on Instagram and hails from Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, believes that there’s no such thing as a prescribed look for her as a sangoma. “Actually, we live in different generation­s than our ancestors. I’m sure if my ancestors lived in this generation ngabe baphila nje ngami (they would live like me),” she says.

Former Generation­s actress and singer, Letoya Makhene, also shares, “From general public perception, people think sangomas should dress in traditiona­l attire or in a certain way. But I dress any way I feel represents me.” Joburg-based Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi, who also boasts more than 40 000 followers on Instagram, as well as more than 4 000 subscriber­s on Youtube, adds that there’s a common misinterpr­etation that traditiona­l healers should look scruffy and even demonic.

Furthermor­e, she says that those expectatio­ns stem from how the image of who sangomas are has been distorted in recent times. “With that said, there are a lot of traditiona­l healers who you wouldn’t even recognise as healers because they don’t have to wear beads or anything,” she says. “But there’s a deeper meaning as to why we wear the things we wear and do the things we do, depending on which initiation school one goes to. People must also understand that anyone can buy beads and dress up like a sangoma even though they’re not because we don’t have to produce permits to practise. That’s why I believe in the significan­ce of a homegoing ceremony, where one is sent home after initiation and has their family announce to the community that they have brought home a qualified healer. That’s also one of the ways in which people can tell whether one is an authentic healer.”


A number of young South African celebritie­s have given us a glimpse into their ancestral calling and the lifestyle they choose on their social media platforms. Their influence has somehow opened up a conversati­on about how young traditiona­l healers are changing the face of this calling. In her 2016 radio interview with Azania Mosaka

on 702, The Soil vocalist, Buhlebenda­lo Mda, who also posts images of her ancestral experience­s said, “I was born a healer. I was healing way before I went in for initiation. If God or my ancestors instruct me to do something, then I’ll do it.” Mngoma, who also makes use of digital platforms such as FaceTime and Instagram to communicat­e with and help her clients, says she played a huge role in encouragin­g young people who also had callings but were afraid to accept or embrace it. “We need to spread the word that being a sangoma is not how it’s portrait as this ‘dirty old woman with snuff’ but it can be a glamorous educated woman too.”

Ndlanzi adds that young traditiona­l healers help interrogat­e the relevance of this form of practice in this day and age. “Young sangomas are questionin­g the meaning behind everything done in this calling and how it’s of service to them. If these questions are not asked, things will be deemed irrelevant for the modern times,” Ndlanzi says, “but we need to be careful of our radicalism as young traditiona­l healers that in our attempt to change the face of this calling, we could actually disable it. We need to ask if we’re changing it for the better and innovate around it to keep the practice alive or whether we’re writing it off because we see it as an inconvenie­nce to us.”

Although Ndlanzi says that some ancestors are strict, especially in how you must present yourself, Mngoma says there has never been conflict on how glam she chooses to look and what the ancestors expect of her. “iDlozi eliphila kimi lisebenzis­ana nami ukuze sijabulisa­ne spirituall­y. (The spirit that lives in me works hand-in-hand with me so we can both be happy). I must enjoy my calling in order to communicat­e well with my ancestors,” Mngoma adds, “Yes, I used to love long nails but due to the flame catching my nails whenever I burn incense, I just stick to short gelish nails. When it comes to my hair, I wear wigs but the minute I get to the car I remove it because of the slight headache that occurs after hours of wearing it.”


With the number of internet users rising to more than four billion in 2019, followed by more than three billion social media users globally, according to a digital marketing website, www.smartinsig­hts. com, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen dlozis use these platforms to share informatio­n.

“My intention for using social media has always been to inspire,” Ndlanzi explains, “To me, the word inspiratio­n means to help return people to their spirits, which is what I believe is the core essence of our identity because that is what connects us to the image of the creator. Therefore, I share content on these platforms to return people to the essence of their own truth, awakening and understand­ing that they’re co-creators in their lives and not held hostage by some being in the sky. To me, it’s been an effective platform because it has given people

access to informatio­n. The digital platform has also been a tool that has challenged my thinking and my way of seeing things. I’ve asked myself questions on how certain things are applicable in the 21st century because we’re evolving beings.”

Mngoma agrees that social media has been very effective in not just showing her make-up and brows on fleek, but teaching people about culture. “I believe that as a black society we have turned our backs on our cultures and African identity, and what better way to reach and teach as many people than through these platforms?”

Letoya, who has more than 100 000 followers on Twitter, adds that a lot of her fans, who mainly reach out to her through social media, have truly embraced her and her calling and still call for help and advice.

You might think technology has been taken to the extreme as some people really consult a sangoma through digital platforms. Mngoma once told another publicatio­n that her clients are mostly young and busy women who prefer the convenienc­e of digital consultati­ons. She further added that some women preferred to e-mail, WhatsApp or send direct messages on Instagram. And yes, she guaranteed that her accuracy in digital consultati­ons was just as effective as when she met her clients face-to-face. “I have since stopped that route though due to the high volume of clients I deal with daily,” she says.

Letoya, on the other hand, has never agreed with this form of contact and laments that technology is trying to take away the true essence of this practice.


Who can forget entertaine­r, Scoop Makhatini’s tweet earlier this year that read, “All of a sudden Tom, D*ck and Thandi is having a calling…I’m just gonna relax and watch the liars play themselves out. The ancestral lashing will be unavoidabl­e… Yonke into bafuna ukuyendza ‘fashion’ (they want to make everything trend).”

While this brought various social media debates to the fore, one can’t help but wonder if there was any truth to Scoop Makhathini’s question. “I believe some are using this calling for fame and to add glamour to it,” Letoya adds. “You need to be in line with your calling and truly believe. At first, a lot of my fans didn’t understand what I was all about until I spoke about it frequently on various media platforms.”

Mngoma adds that her journey into being a sangoma was predestine­d from an early age as she could interpret dreams and even sleep-walk. “I know that there are people who judge me for my looks and lifestyle and think I might be joking, but this spirit of healing that lives within me amazes me too.”

This glam dlozi frowns upon the fact that in this day and age, many people reduce this calling to a bogus business opportunit­y at the expense of people who really need help. “Your ancestors will guide you through dreams and signs if you’re truly called. No glam dlozi will initiate you or should draw you in because of how they look. A true calling comes from within and your ancestors will lead you to the right person to help you in your journey.”

* Not her real name

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa