On the 24th of September 2020, Africa Unite hosted a Heritage Day Event on Zoom to celebrate the various cultures that call South Africa their home. The event gathered community leaders from the wide array of cultures in South Africa to talk about healing. Given the current global COVID pandemic and the South African femicide epidemic, many people joined in to passionately learn and discuss how different cultures heal.
We had the privilege to welcome Dalali Venge (a Tanzanian Human Rights Project Coordinator), Pejamauro Visagie (a Khoe Revivalist), Vedhan Singh (Interfaith Dialogue Advocate & Human Rights Advocate), Nolihle Gama (a Rastafarian, Social & Economic Activist), Dr Solomon Mutua (a Traditional Healer focused on African Cultural Remedies), Philani Sbonelo Biyela, and Wonke Mapeyi. The dialogue was attended by 33 people and the Q&A session at the end of the event greatly benefited by having this number of passionate people involved in the enlightening discussion.
The purpose of this webinar was to empower people that represent distinct non-western forms of healing. These practices and their benefits are often isolated within their communities and this webinar sought to create an inter-cultural understanding of healing practices so that we as the larger South African community could benefit from the pioneering healing methods of our nation’s cultures.
Our speakers gave valuable insights into their own cultures: Pejamauro Visagie highlighted the lack of representation for Khoe people and the racial injustices resulting from Apartheid’s classification of races. Dalali Venge told the story of COVID in Tanzania and the importance of home remedies (such as the ‘concoctions’), stressed that South Africa has to heal from its femicides epidemic, and fear itself (concerning xenophobia). Vedhan delivered a holistic approach to Hinduism and his presentation on “yoga”, “Ayurveda”, and “Aham Brahmasmi” caught the interest of many attendees. Dr Solomon Mutua emphatically distinguished between chemical & traditional healing and the benefits of the latter by knowing and listening to your body and treating it with certain leaves that bring life. Nolihle Gama was unfortunately cut short due to connectivity but the history of Rastafarian leaders such as Marcus Garvey and defining Rastafarianism as not only a culture/ religion but a liberation movement received a lot of positive attention from the audience. Philani Sbonelo Biyela enthusiastically talked about the history and geography of the Zulu nation and the significance of Shaka Zulu and its various leaders. Wonke Mapeyi presented on the Xhosa nation and highlighted the importance of tradition, whether that be placing ancestors through clan names or relying on Xhosa healing: through Umhlonyane, or the advice of people who have the position of being healers in the Xhosa nation.
The Q&A session was a great measure of outcomes as the participants were able to engage with the speakers and add their context and experience to the event. Pejamauro Visagie placed the discussion back on gender by asking about the role of female leadership in the Zulu dynasty and the importance of the activism surrounding true historical context with examples such as Queen Nzinga of Angola during the Portuguese colonial age. Multiple participants responded: Melusi Mahlaba stated that men do lead to much in Zulu culture and that cultural norms disempower women when it comes to leadership. Abongile Nocanda commented that the role of social/ cultural norms is major in determining why women are put in the “backseat” and that we have to go back to the roots of culture and social standards to be able to empower women effectively. She continues saying that we have to teach young women that they do not have to follow traditions and social standards and that we have to instil a sense of independence and realign what achievement means, e.g. marriage =/= success. Bronwyn February supported this by saying that self-discovery is the foundation of culture and understanding.
Londiwe Nkosi engaged Dr Solomon Mutua about practices that we can use to take care of our homes. Dr Mutua stressed that homes are temporary but our bodies are permanent in our lives. We have to take care of our bodies first and foremost by eating in ways that aid our body in being healthy. If the concern is to purify the air in our house, we should rather eat foods that increase the oxygen intake in our bodies. Additionally, Dr Mutua added that we should keep our house clean (i.e. do not congest it with things) and that we should ideally plant fruit trees in our compound that we can eat daily. The topic of tribalism was also a recurring theme in the conversation; however, it was agreed that continuing along this vein and fiving into agitators and misinformation will only serve to degenerate the remainder of social cohesion in South Africa.
Finally, it was highlighted, with much agreement throughout the audience, that pride in your ethnicity/ culture is good but it should not be to the detriment of other people’s culture/ ethnicities. He continued by saying that we need to work towards accurately representing South Africa’s cultures and that we have to push and support organizations that are doing that work to be able to bring about change. He talked about this in the context of promoting underrepresented languages and that we should put pressure on the pan-South African language board to push for language education in our society.
The Africa Unite team would like to thank everyone who made the time to attend the virtual event as well as the speakers who took the time out of their busy schedules to participate and engage with everyone. This provides us with much optimism for the future and lived up to the title of the event.
Please make use of the link below to access the recording of the webinar/dialogue: