Nompumelelo the Specialist (Part 1)

Being close to the sea makes waking up feel entirely different. Being indoors is never as comfortable as being outdoors. So when we left, it was with relief.

Sphokie, Twiggy’s sister was our guide for the day, and she was the one who actually ended up organizing participants for us our entire time in Grahamstown.

We interviewed a young woman named Siya in the morning, then in the afternoon Sphokie took us to a more sacred space, where she learns and practices the spiritual disciplines of African magic.

It was a home, situated right next to Twiggy’s mother’s house.

The crew was seated in the sofas where we were asked to get comfortable. I was seated next to a striking woman in black and white traditional Xhosa print draping, and a crown.

I was completely aware of where we were at the time actually. But it all clicked, when Sphokie reappeared wearing red, black and white Xhosa draping and knelt before the woman seated next to me.

With her head tilted to the side resting on her paired hands, she faced downwards as she and the woman beside me exchanged words I could not understand.

But I remembered one word that they said repeatedly, “Camagu”.

Then suddenly, my attention is demanded by this bold woman wearing red, black and white Xhosa draping with a beaded veil hanging over her face. Her beauty was obvious even with a cover, and it was obvious that she was the one we came to see.

She and the younger women she looked over led us to their shrine where they proceeded their practice.

I must have been intimidated by her power, because when Twiggy asked me to mic her, a bit of nervousness released into my system.

Is she alright with me just touching her like this?

But the peaceful look she maintained behind that veil reassured me as I placed the audio equipment onto her body.

She began to speak, and no one dared interrupt her because it would be like attempting to stop a waterfall from spilling over. I’d even compare her speech to the clarity of that water.

Without being able to understand majority of what she said, I remember her saying something along the lines of ‘I’m not just a Sangoma, or Isitwasa or… I am all those things”.

A specialist.

she left me with appreciation.

Xhosa is beautiful.

When we reentered the house. I had to de-mic Nompumelelo. As I was doing that, her cane dropped. I panicked on the inside, because I knew that I had just bumped over the cane of a very powerful woman. Surely there must be consequences.

My first instinct was to pick up the cane and hand it over to her, and as I did that I took a quick glimpse at her face behind her veil and she was smiling at me. I didn’t know if there was a message in that smile, or if I was just caught up in the enchantment of the space as a whole.

The moment we got out of that house, everyone began to talk about the elephant in the room.

“Today was your day Thobe.”

We then attempted to decrypt the incident and concluded that it was either a message for me, or a message for Twiggy. In that moment, I was really hoping that Twiggy was the recipient of the message. This was not the last time we visited that house.

FUNDERS