Echoes of legato rhythms pierce the corrugated iron walls of the makeshift church. It stands in the middle of an open field, with white and green flags atop each corner of the wooden structure with its corrugated facade. An upright post with a transverse piece is positioned in the centre of the structure as a cross. This is where and how I spend most of my Sundays.
Ikhaya Lika Moya translates simply to “home of spirits” in English. This series is about my intense spiritual journey of being a spiritual healer and how I found refuge and solace in the Zion Christian Church. Ikhaya Lika Moya navigates through rituals, performances, symbols and sermons conducted at Ukuphila KwamaKrestu church under Bishop Mancele and Mfundisi Khuzwayo at a makeshift church near the Nancefield Hostel in Soweto.
In 2005, when I came back from training to become a healer, I was sent to a church where I had to be part of the congregation. At the time, I was grappling with separating Sethembiso the healer from Sethembiso the artist. His was a new and different world for me, a world where I can now communicate with my ancestors, a world where I see visions and hear voices.
The Zion church became a place of refuge for me, at a time when I was shunned by friends and some family members for becoming a healer. I can speak a different language now, a language of the ancestors. I had a different lifestyle and everything changed completely. The church became the only place where I knew I could be myself. The church understood why certain things were happening to me and how my healing was nurtured in the Zion church.
Religion is a complex topic in an African context. This is because of the colonial period and that for a very long time, African modes of worship and religious beliefs and philosophical ideas around faith were in many ways silenced or removed entirely from history. In South Africa, there are two churches that I believe act as a hybrid between African beliefs and Christianity. Those are the Zion church and Shembe church, which have great similarities.
The late documentary photographer Peter McKenzie once told me that “it is impossible to photograph spirits, but you can give an indication of what you think spirituality looks like and what it is about or photograph the depictions of what the real realm would look like in your own opinion”.