Many people ask me "how can it be that a white man is a Sangoma?" I then reply "we all have red blood, and we all have ancestors". I normally then ask people if it is okay for black people to become doctors, lawyers, priests, etc. The answer is always a resounding YES OF COURSE! I then say "well then it must be okay for white people to become Sangomas, because to say otherwise is tantamount to reverse rascism"! I then ask people if they have heard of Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu. Again most people have. Well Nelson Mandela is a lawyer, an advocate, and Desmond Tutu is an English priest, an Anglican Bishop. Both these men are my elders as both of them are Xhosa. So they have entered Western culture and excelled. Now as a white man I was called to become a Sangoma, and now I am a senior Xhosa Sangoma.
For us Sangomas, 'Ubuntu' means humanity. And people realise ubuntu through their conduct in the community.
When I give talks I relate a story during the early days of my training in a township in the Eastern Cape. Apartheid finished in 1994, I started my training in 1997, so understandably people were cautious and a bit suspicious of me. I remember one traditional ceremony which I attended. The people were very wary towards me. My teacher felt all this and when she went into trance she became like a lioness protecting her young and she shouted at the community. "U sika apha egazine ibomvu, uyasika Cingolwendaba egazini ibomvu. Ngamanye amaxesha ndapupa abelungu izinyana zithetha mna. Ngamanye amaxesha uCingo upupa Amaxhosa izinyanya, zithetha nina. Abantu Bafana".
"When you cut my arm red blood flows, when you cut John's arm red blood flows. Sometimes when I dream the white ancestors (Abelungu Izinyanya) speak to me, sometimes when John dreams Xhosa ancestor spirits talk to him. We are all very similar. Once more, I was told in a dream by the Great Spirit (uThixo) to train John, and that is what I am doing. When he came to me he was very sick, now he is much better. He treats me with respect. I met his parents and they also show me a lot of respect. John is like one of my own sons" (translated from Xhosa to English).
After this there was silence by the community. And after 5 years of training I was accepted. Now I am treated with love and respect.
Again "Ubuntu" means humanity, and "Ubuntu Ubunzulu" is the sacred Xhosa Sangoma teachings relating to our connection to one another and our ancestors. If someone trains to become a medical doctor they have to pass a series of tests and examinations regardless of skin colour. At the end of their 6 or 7 hard years they are examined by other doctors and if they are deemed worthy they are rewarded with the title of 'Doctor'. A similar process occurs with Sangoma training. It is a traditional apprenticeship. If someone, regardless of skin colour demonstrates the Sangoma calling, and they act upon it respecting and honouring their teacher and community then they have realised 'Ubuntu Ubunzulu' (our sacred humanity & our connection to community) and skin colour should never be an issue.