Sangoma Spirits on Social Media: An Ethereal Dance of Tradition & Technology

Synopsis: In Zimbabwe, traditional healers known as sangomas are embracing social media platforms like TikTok to connect with a global audience. Gogo Mafirakureva, among others, exemplifies this shift, using digital spaces to perform ancient rituals, offer spiritual guidance, and conduct consultations. While some praise this adaptation as a necessary evolution in a digital age, critics argue it risks diluting the authenticity of sacred practices. Amidst economic challenges driving people towards alternative forms of healing, the debate over the role of technology in traditional spirituality continues to unfold, reflecting broader societal changes in Zimbabwe and beyond.
Monday, July 8, 2024
TikTok sangomas
Source : ContentFactory

In the heart of Harare, Zimbabwe, Gogo Mafirakureva dons her traditional attire, a denim sun hat atop her dreadlocks, adorned with vibrant beads, as she goes live on TikTok. With a stylish flair and spiritual gravitas, she engages nearly 1,000 viewers within minutes, showcasing the ancient rituals of the Southern African sangomas. These healers, known as spiritual intermediaries, bridge the gap between the earthly and supernatural realms, guided by ancestral spirits and traditional practices.

Among Zimbabwe's 65,000 sangomas, a new wave has emerged embracing social media. Mafirakureva, aged 37, exemplifies this shift, broadcasting consultations from her living room in the UK. The platform, once thought incongruent with African spirituality, now serves as a conduit for global outreach. Utilizing rhythmic chants, mbira music, and ceremonial artifacts, she enters trance states to deliver spiritual guidance and healing solutions.

Across Zimbabwe, traditional healing encompasses divination, herbal remedies, and spiritual cleansings. Sangomas like Mafirakureva invoke ancestral spirits and even mermaids, like the male spirit David, to aid clients. These practices, steeped in centuries-old traditions, now integrate digital platforms like TikTok and Facebook, where healers engage global audiences and monetize through virtual consultations, transcending physical boundaries.

Critics question the authenticity of digital sangomas, decrying them as opportunists profiting from sacred traditions. Traditionalist voices lament the use of technology in spiritual practices, arguing it dilutes authenticity. Prince Mutandi of Zinatha denounces these TikTok sangomas as charlatans, contrasting them with ethically bound traditional healers who eschew social media.

Nevertheless, proponents view this digital shift as cultural innovation, adapting to economic pressures and societal changes. In Zimbabwe's turbulent economic landscape, marked by hyperinflation and unemployment, traditional healers offer solace and guidance amidst adversity. Rashwhit Mukundu, a social commentator, sees this intersection of tradition and technology as a harbinger of societal evolution, meeting contemporary needs while preserving ancestral wisdom.

As Zimbabwe navigates economic turmoil, the allure of spiritual guidance grows, drawing individuals seeking alternatives to conventional remedies. Yet, amidst the digital transition, concerns persist about exploitation and authenticity within the traditional healing community. Mukundu warns of scams preying on vulnerability, cautioning against misplaced trust in digital mediums.

In essence, the emergence of social media sangomas represents a complex interplay of tradition, technology, and economic necessity. Whether viewed as cultural evolution or exploitation, their presence underscores a broader societal trend where ancient practices adapt to modern realities, shaping the future of Zimbabwe's spiritual landscape.