Thursday, September 26, 2013

Black Bull, Ancestors and Me by Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde #review

Title: Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma
Author: Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde
Publisher: Fanele, an imprint of Jacana Media, 2008

The first thing that is immediately apparent when reading Black Bull, Ancestors and Me, is Nkunzi’s overwhelming confidence in herself and her place in the world. She is not afraid of breaking with her culture’s established viewpoints and, in all that she does, she seeks to find the middle ground.

This is expressed in her balancing the male and female aspects of her self, as well as drawing from established traditions with a vision of a dynamic future. In many ways Nkunzi was fortunate, because she was raised by a mother who accepted Nkunzi for who she was, and defended her from those who would discriminate.

Though she does not shy away from examining the painful aspects of life, her entire book comes across with a huge amount of positive attitude, which is so refreshing – especially when we consider the constant doom and gloom in the media. Mostly, Nkunzi concerns herself with doing what is right – this might not be the easiest path to follow, but she has clearly spent much time examining herself and others, and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind.

Central to Nkunzi’s worldview is her firm belief in the powers of her ancestors, who have guided her on her path as a sangoma. If you, like me, are curious about how important this belief system is to others, Nkunzi offers a fantastic way for readers to experience a bit of a paradigm shift to establish greater understanding. It’s not necessary to believe as she does, but I finished this book with a better idea of why some folks follow this path.

Of particular interest also is Nkunzi’s research, which she relates here as she’s spent much time travelling to interview other same-sex sangomas in South Africa, and has offered a fascinating glimpse into this other world. She speaks plainly and from the heart, toward greater understanding. I do believe her voice should be heard, especially in the light of so many brutal attacks against lesbians in South Africa’s townships.

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