White boy dreams of being a Zulu sangoma

Mooi River – Ten-year-old Keegan Baker is so passionate about the Zulu culture that he wears his traditional attire as often as he can, his mother says.

A video of Keegan has gone viral on Facebook. In it he is seen dancing and singing to two Zulu songs for his mother and her friends at their home in Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands earlier this year.

When asked what it is about the isiZulu culture that attracted him to it, Baker said simply, "I just like the language and how they do things".

He said he had been speaking the language since he was 2 and that he was taught by the family's domestic worker. She even gave him the name Sandile, he said.

"I know it has a meaning but I don't know the meaning."

On weekends, Keegan  who is at boarding school during the week  can be found sitting at home watching the Shaka Zulu series, over and over, said his mother, Sarah Finlay.

Keegan said he watched it that often because it taught him the history of Zulu people.

History and language

"It has lots of history and also the language and what they wear and how they do things."

Keegan said he practiced his isiZulu with other Zulu people in his neighbourhood. He casually told News24 that they are not shocked by the fact that he speaks the language so well because "they've known me speaking it for a long time, so they know how I talk and stuff".


Keegan on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. (Photos courtesy of East Coast Radio)


But this was not the case when strangers come across the rosy-cheeked blonde boy. When they hear him speak, most of them are amazed and their mouths dropped, he said.

Nonetheless, the feeling he got when he put on his 'kit'  as he calls it, could best be summed up in three of his own words: "excited, fashionable and confident".

When he grows up, he said he wanted to become a sangoma.

"It's like a Zulu doctor, a sangoma. I think I was 4 or 5 when I went to my friend's house and his maid was a sangoma and she showed me everything there."

After that he was sold.

Keegan said he had two favourite songs, one is sung by Eastern Cape crooner Nathi titled Nomvula and the other is from the Sarafina movie soundtrack called Vuma Dlozi Lami.

His mother described him as a very special boy, who is passionate about the culture.

'White Zulu'

"If there's any little white Zulu I promise you it's him, that's all he wants in life," Finlay says candidly.

"He is the most unbelievable child. I have Zulu people that come up to me, they tell me 'Listen my grandchildren cannot speak Zulu like your boy can'. The boy was Shaka Zulu or something in his past life," she laughs.

In November 2014, Finlay and Keegan had decided to attend a concert where Johnny Clegg and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were performing at the Durban Botanical Gardens. Keegan was wearing his 'kit', as usual.

"This guy came up to me and said 'can I take a photo of your son? And I said ya, sure. And the guy said I'm so-and-so from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, can I take him to meet the team?

"And then this other guy comes up to me and says please can he come on stage with us?"

That afternoon, Keegan graced the stage with the South African music legends and showed them some of his own skills. "It was exciting, it was my first dancing in front of lots of people, I felt good," he says.

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