Ubuntu 2010 in Review

mandala 2010 Has been a wonderful year with many highs, and a few lows. This was the year where South Africa hosted the 2010 world cup which helped boost South Africa's image abroad. A Blog I wrote, namely "World Cup Football meets Sangoma medicine" prompted various invitations to speak on  radio programmes like the BBC World Service, SAfm - South African Radio, and Dublin's Newstalk Radio. Hence, bringing my vision about the importance of    respecting South African traditional medicine, a step closer. I was deeply humbled and grateful by the warm response in which my message was received.

One of the biggest lows for me this year was the death and passing of one of my closest friends and biggest supporters in South Africa, namely Sydney Toto Peter. He passed away tragically in a car accident in South Africa on the 3rd August. He was the man who introduced me to my teacher in the 90's and helped integrate me into the local Xhosa community. Sid was the eternal optimistic, and he had a gift in making people smile and laugh around him. He will be remembered for his cheerful disposition.

My Ubuntu work thrived this year, with workshops in the UK, Ireland, USA & Mexico. I was pleased to see how willing people have been to hearing and learning about the old ways. The key theme here is the importance of respecting and remembering our Ancestors, and what it means to be human. Ubuntu means humanity, and it is an evolving process, depending on how we help and look after one another.

These Ubuntu workshops wouldn't happen without the support of a number of people. There are so many people to thank that I don't have the space to include all of them. I would like to thank everyone who has come to a workshop and taken the time to learn these ancient ways.

I would like to thank Richard & Katarina Diss in the UK for their help and support. In Ireland I would like to thank Henry Rowan, Carole Guyett & her husband Steve. I would also like to thank Hazel and Omo Lara. In America I would like to thank Jeff & Diane Baker. Jeff worked tirelessly in promoting my work last year and encouraging people to come to my Ubuntu workshops. He also wrote a wonderful article in the Sacred Fire Magazine, entitled The Lone Leopard.  Julie Bete also needs a special mention in her encouragement, and support with my USA tour this year. She has very kindly offered to be my assistant and help with my admin duties.

I would like to give a hearty 'thank you' to Eliot Cowan and David Wiley, two Tsaurirrikames (Elder Shamans) in the Huichol indigenous tradition of Mexico. In the last 4 years they have acknowledged and supported me with my efforts in promoting indigenous South African medicine. Recently in November in Mexico, David Wiley made me an elder in the Sacred Fire Community, an international community dedicated to promoting indigenous medicine.

Working in an area like African shamanism (Sangoma medicine) means constantly communicating to the international community about Africa and African spirituality. I have found that most prejudice comes from ignorance, thus highlighting the importance of clear and concise communication. In this area I would like to thank my close friend and publicist Sally Turner. Sally has continually helped me with all media work, such as radio, Internet and magazine articles. Sally is a true believer in Ubuntu, in our shared humanity, and in our innate closeness through us all having red blood.

As always I would like to thank my Xhosa Sangoma community in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. And in particular my beloved teacher, Mum Gwevu, her husband Tata Sukwini, and elder Tata Bongani. I have being constantly in touch with them this year, and they have stood by my side in my Sangoma work overseas. Thus helping to further our joint vision of 'Ubuntu Ubunzulu', the depth of humanity. Which is a humanity joined through blood, and superseding culture, creed and language.

Finally I wish All of you a Wonderful New Year filled with magic, beauty and love!

World Cup Football meets Sangoma Medicine

John Lockley (Sangomas & FIFA World Cup) Growing up during the 70s and 80s, in a South Africa torn apart by Apartheid, I’d often find myself barefoot, playing soccer with the local black farm kids.  A bunch of us, black and white, would kick a ball around in the dirt. In the game I was merely another participant - not white, not blonde, not English - just another soccer player. For those brief moments I felt a sense of camaraderie with my team mates and it gave me hope. Hope for an undivided country where the colour of one’s skin no longer matters.

Thirty years on, Apartheid has at last been consigned to the history books. Yes, South Africa still faces some tough challenges as a nation, but as hosts of the upcoming FIFA World Cup we have a unique opportunity to allow “the beautiful game” to bridge cultural and social divides. And as a soccer fan and a practicing Sangoma (I am a member of  ‘Uthando Bayaphantsi’ traditional healers Association) I can’t wait for kick off. The event will also provide the world with a unique window into traditional South African spirituality and, if people keep an open mind, it could promote positive awareness of our indigenous spiritual culture and heritage.

Sangomas, the traditional spiritual doctors of Southern Africa, will play a significant part in the World Cup. Most of the major soccer clubs in South Africa use Sangomas in much the same way that modern clubs overseas use sport psychologists.  Sangomas are psychologist, herbalist and priest rolled into one. They are trained and initiated in an intricate spiritual way much like Tibetan Buddhist Lamas and are seen as instruments or channels of ancestral healing. At a recent milestone conference in South Africa it was announced that African teams may consult with traditional healers and use traditional forms of treatment during the FIFA world cup finals.

This is an exciting time for us, and an opportunity for Sangomas to dispel any negative misconceptions about their work. Sangomas and traditional African healers have often been wrongly associated in the west with witchdoctors, muti killings and voodoo. Sangomas are professional priests and healers, but just as certain individuals in the Christian priesthood and western medicine may occasionally bring their professions into disrepute, so unfortunately do certain individuals in the Sangoma world. Traditionally Sangomas are healers and bonefide Sangomas would never perform negative acts, they work with honesty and integrity.

A Sangoma might bless a football team and the pitch in various ways according to their particular culture. An animal blood sacrifice is one way for us to perform blessings and ceremonies, as in our culture blood is seen as cleansing and purifying, but we are also able to use medicinal plants, prayers, song and dance for the same purpose. We pay respect to our forefathers and call upon our ancestors to support our endeavours, placing our fate in their hands, whether in life or on the soccer pitch. Not so long ago FIFA cracked down heavily on Sangomas performing their rites on the turf at the Somhlolo Stadium in Swaziland, after it was disclosed that a Sangoma from either Black Mambas or Mbabane Swallows had cut open a section of the expensive artificial pitch and buried a sacrificial chicken in the centre. Not an issue the English FA are ever likely to have to contend with!

I will be supporting  the South African Bafana Bafana during the tournament.  I would have  been behind the Republic of Ireland squad too as my mother’s Irish, from Dublin, but controversially they haven't made it to the finals.  I'll be in Ireland in May, so if the Irish team would like a blessing ceremony I would be up for it.  And don't worry, I'll leave my chickens and goats behind and focus purely on the use of medicinal plants.