How are you doing today?
I am very well — happy, excited and nervous about GogoSpeaks this Sunday at UJ Theatre
I once saw a headline that reductively described you as ‘A sangoma with wi-fi’. Would you like to comment?
Ubungoma as a practice is ancient and rooted in customs and rites that have been around for millennia. Izangoma, alongside other types of healers, have played — and continue to play — a central role in our society. So it would not be accurate to say that the internet has made the practice more visible and accessible. The digital world has affected all aspects of our lives and societies: I don’t believe ubungoma has been specifically affected because it’s an aspect of our societies, not an anomaly or phenomenon.
What are the ethics you need to consider when operating on global social media platforms?
Integrity and compassion come first, regardless of the space you operate in. Consider what you are doing or saying, and why … and this applies to everyone, not just izangoma. This also applies to digital and social media platforms.
With your visibility encouraging other healers, is the idea of divination as sinister still prominent?
Izangoma have operated throughout colonialism and apartheid, when laws existed to persecute and marginalise practitioners, but the practice prevailed regardless of perceptions and laws. The same goes for today: izangoma are practicing and healing, regardless of perceptions and tropes.
Would you say your practice involves dismantling the stereotypes surrounding ubungoma?
I would say that those who have encountered and experienced the work of my ancestors through my practice have done the work of reckoning with the reality of what it represents and how that affects their lives.
On that note, what is it like being a public figure in the realm of ancestral-based healing and spirituality in the digital age?
I don’t consider myself a public figure. I was using social media as just another young person, sharing what I know, and sharing my experiences — interest grew organically from that. I didn’t set out to position myself as a “public figure” sangoma, and I don’t think people look to me as an absolute authority and source of information. If anything, those who resonate with what I share support my practice and work.
The fourth annual GogoSpeaks series is happening this week. Can you tell me about GogoSpeaks and how it came into being?
I started giving talks in 2013, from my home, and then at bookshops for small groups of people to address the gap in knowledge and recurring questions that my audience had about our cultural practices and beliefs, as they related to their own lives. As the interest in my talks grew, I saw an opportunity to go deeper with my topics to explore complex issues affecting young black South Africans, and what happens when cultural beliefs intersect with the frictions of our postcolonial identities and experiences.
What does the GogoSpeaks series aim to address and how?
I am working to revive that conversational, storytelling aspect of fellowship and learning that many of our generation have not been able to access from their elders. There is a lot that I speak about, that people should have ideally first heard from home, but didn’t. And now, as uGogo, I am hoping to bridge that gap so that our generation will be able to gain knowledge and a depth of personal practice to be able to share with those who will come after us.
What is the preparation process that you follow for GogoSpeaks?
There are a lot of logistical considerations and planning, which I handle with my team. In terms of content, a lot of it is inspired — I sometimes dream about the topic and how to approach it. Otherwise I just note which themes have been prevalent in my consultations with clients and work from there.
Can you tell me about the ticket pricing? Why is it R300 and does that not limit the reach of GogoSpeaks?
My practice is my primary focus and, as such, I am available for one-on-one consultations throughout the year. I have several different options that are accessible and affordable. It is only once a year that I host GogoSpeaks, which has hard costs that I pay for out of my own pocket and hope to recoup through ticket sales. I don’t believe the pricing is prohibitive, particularly because those who may feel the ticket price is out of their range have an opportunity to book a consultation with me at any other point in the year.
Could you tell me about the theme “purpose and prosperity” and why you chose it?
I have seen evidence of an emotional displacement that young people suffer as a result of capitalism and urban life. People are grappling with establishing values for their lives, social and romantic relationships, and families, and they struggle to find grounding and stability in those realms.
Our cultures are rich in guiding principles that can help people to build resilience and deepen ubuntu as they establish independent adult lives. I wanted to share what I have observed in my practice, and how people can benefit from our rich cultural and spiritual wisdom.
Can you lightly unpack what we should expect from this upcoming conversation?
The talk will provide practical tools and guidance to those who wish to maximise their potential, soothe internal anxieties, and participate in positive and progressive ways in their lives, relationships and communities. A central focus of the talk is thriving in and with love — self love, community love and romantic love.
I hope that people will learn to identify and use their inner resources to drive their lives to their highest purpose, as well as to enrich themselves as they create the futures they dream of.
Lebohang Masango will be hosting the event. Are there any other speakers?
It will just be the two of us sharing the stage this year.
I have one more question and it’s the one I hold most dearly, Gogo. Why do we need to heal if we’re functional in our pain?
Pain is not only experienced by the person carrying it: it is also transmitted or projected outward towards others, whether we intend to or not. Healing is something we do for ourselves, those who came before us, those who stand with us and those who will come after us. It is not a journey we undertake for ourselves only, because nobody exists in isolation.
GogoSpeaks will take place on November 24 at the University of Johannesburg Theatre, corner of Kingsway Avenue and University Road, Auckland Park. Tickets cost R300 online and at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit noksangoma.com