Monday, April 11, 2011

Sangomas and Cell Phones

I am busy reading 'The Elephant Whisperer' by Lawrence Anthony who is the founder of Thula Thula Game Park in KwaZulu-Natal. One particular story that he recounts really appeals to me as a cameo of South African culture. It raises so many possible 'questions for discussion' in a class on the subject - but the best thing is that it shows how we, as South Africans, are able to look at ourselves and smile at our complexity.

The author has had some positive experiences with a sangoma . . .

Francoise had an idea that overseas guests would be interested in this, so we made an arrangement with a local sangoma to receive lodge guests who wanted to "have their fortunes told". He started doing well with the extra fees he was receiving and the guests loved it.
The next thing we knew he was showing off a brand new, shiny briefcase which he carried with him wherever he went. We spoke to him, explaining that his image and regalia of skins and beads were important for overseas guests, and that he must always hide his new briefcase when they arrive. He agreed most reluctantly, because, as he explained, it was such a beautiful briefcase and the guests would be most impressed.
As his income increased his accoutrements grew to include a new cellphone which he strapped to his belt with Zulu beads. We also had to reason with him about that because he had taken to making calls in the middle of his divinations, explaining to his clients that this special phone didn't need wires.

(The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, published by Pan Books 2010, page 268)

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