Showing off your faith with pride

Living religion entails significantly more than daily ritual and occasional observances. Many believers like to show their faith by adorning their homes—and their bodies—with ornaments and trinkets.

A short journey around the religious paraphernalia shops of Johannesburg offers insights into the belief systems of various groups and current trends in religious adornment.

Handmade by Bev, which has branches in Johannesburg, stocks several items relevant to Judaism, from jewel-encrusted kippahs (skull caps) to small shiny silver menorahs used for the festival of Chanukah. A spokesperson for the franchise said the hamsa—a hand-shaped amulet with an eye at the centre which is used to ward off evil—is popular now.
The hamsa is a symbol common to all Middle Eastern cultures.

At Handmade by Bev, shoppers are also drawn to designer mezuzahs, a blessing posted on parchment and attached to the doorstops of Jewish homes.

Ahmed Jeena of Abbasi in Laudium, Pretoria, says he stocks all Islamic requirements—prayer clothing, torpies (caps), prayer mats and Qur’ans, as well as “more ornamental items and Islamic gifts”, such as literature, tapestries and wall frames with calligraphic religious inscriptions on them.

Christian resources abound in shopping centres around the country. Outlets such as CUM Books, Impact Christian Resources and Gospel Direct stock literature, DVDs, music and computer software.

At Fordsburg’s Oriental Plaza purchases relating to Hinduism are not always made by the devout. As one storekeeper at the plaza notes: “You have white people, black people and tourists coming to buy all kinds of items. I suppose for them it’s about getting a feel for the culture.”

At a small muti store in Houghton the Mail & Guardian spoke to the shop assistant of a Dr Dabula. Called Nokuthula, she said that the African experience of spirituality has driven all sorts to her door. “White people come in here too, lots of them. They tell me they have bad spirits or want help for their businesses.” Ornaments from tree bark to ceremonial dance accessories are sold at Dabula’s.

For New Ageists, the House of Isis has something for everyone. In store are crystals, statuettes of Jesus beside Shiva and literature ranging from Deepak Chopra to books about reiki and healing chakras. Sales assistant Elizabeth Sweetman says most popular with the public is a chat with the resident psychic.

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