Honey Makwakwa’s ‘Sangoma Society’ Is A Digital Archive Of South African Spirituality

Image by Lauren Mulligan

Every culture has its customs, however, colonial rulers did their best to snuff out the richness of their hostage nations. Christianity is one of the most pervasive teachings of the colonial era. For this reason, the reclamation of one’s heritage is both a personal and communal responsibility. There are various manifestations of this type of work, one of which being through harnessing the internet; as Honey Makwakwa does with Sangoma Society.

The concept of traditional healers is nothing in African cultures, though their work has been vilified, satirized, and ridiculed over the years. Family members with a spiritual calling are often ostracized, and that puts things lightly. However, the same can’t be said for individuals who feel compelled to go into the priesthood or a nunnery. Instances like these only exacerbate the need to recenter traditional spirituality and practices in a country’s cultural composition. However, in order to do this, learning material must be available to the masses.

Honey Makwakwa’s Sangoma Society demystifies matters related to the ancestral realm and traditional practices of South Africa. There is no Google search for some of the questions people may have regarding South African spirituality. The knowledge around it is less likely to be passed on from one generation to the next as South Africa is further absorbed into Western globalization. Having Sangoma Society to turn to for answers is perfect for those who grew up with questions deemed too sacrilegious to ask.

The impact of learning one’s spiritual history

Personally, I grew up in a Catholic and AME household. I was that kid with questions about God and the rationale behind the Church’s teachings. Thankfully, I never feared to ask for answers, even though I seldom got definitive answers. In 2011/2012 I concluded that the concept of religion, particularly that of the Catholic Church didn’t represent me. Then as time went on, the concept of a singular high power stopped making sense too. This isn’t to say that African spiritual teachings magically make sense to me all of a sudden. However, 12+ years of my life have been committed to learning Christianity through private schools, South African spirituality deserves similar engagement.

Watching Sangoma Society won’t make the realm of your ancestors sensible immediately. For some, the ancestral realm will always be a confusing concept. Thankfully, with series like Honey’s, the connection to the other side, the one which colonial rulers worked to sever, can be mended.