Who says I can't reject tradition?

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

This week on our international documentary series Global Perspective, SAFM presents  ‘The Ancestors are Calling’.

In a South African family where there has been a traditional healer, or sangoma, it’s believed that the ancestors want a representative in each generation, to take on the role of healing and providing a channel for the power of the ancestral spirits.

Lesego Mangwanyane of SAFM radio in Johannesburg is worried: her great grandfather was a traditional healer but her grandmother and mother didn’t want to take it on. Lesego is starting to have dreams and premonitions and fears that the ancestral finger is pointing at her.

But she doesn’t want to be sucked into the world of ancestral spirits and herbal medicines – she just wants to get on with her life as a young African woman in the 21st Century.

Lesego’s experience of sangomas is limited. Though it’s estimated that 70% of South Africans initially visit a doctor of African Traditional Medicine if they have concerns about their health, Lesego herself has never been to see one, so she decides to find out from friends what their experiences have been. And then to meet some of Soweto’s sangomas themselves.

At the climax of her journey, the drums summoning the ancestors put Lesego into a deep trance and she is told that she has to choose: will she listen to the call of the ancestors or not?


Presenter: Lesego Mangwanyane
Producer: Kate Howells