She turns heads in an African print dress with black and white sneakers. She’s hard to miss as she walks into the Move! offices – her hair is dyed blond; she’s carrying a Gucci sling bag and she keeps her sunglasses on. With a bounce in her step, Gogo Dineo has arrived.
Known as a celebrity sangoma because of her close ties to some of SA’s stars, she’s used to being in the spotlight. She’s been seen with celebrities like Boity Thulo and Masechaba Ndlovu and has frequent radio and TV features. And often, how she looks has people talking. “There’s this stereotype that a sangoma has a look. I mean, no. We look like this now,” she jokes.
In fact, she looks so good, people can’t see the troubles she’s facing. She’s currently going through a divorce from her husband of 14 years. “When you hear my story, you see how many hardships I have had. But you look at me and think ‘she has a Model C English’ but you don’t know that I grew up with the rats of Alexandra,” she says with a laugh. She lets Move! in on who she really is and her journey to becoming a traditional healer.
ONCE A SCEPTIC
Gogo Dineo (38) is passionate about restoring the dignity of traditional healing. She believes the practice has been shunned because of western influences. She’s always keen to be in discussion about heritage and culture because she feels there are stereotypes about sangomas that bring it to disrepute. “I used to be a huge sceptic. It took a while for me to accept my calling,” she says.
Gogo Dineo grew up in Alexandra in a Christian family in her maternal grandfather’s home. When she was a teenager she got a scholarship to go study at The American International School in Bryanston. This is when the symptoms of her calling started showing. Her voice started changing and she often went into trances and couldn’t be restrained when the ancestral spirit was evoked.
“They took me to a mental institution, where I stayed for six months. I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy,” she says. “When I went back home, I was diagnosed with being demonic. Every time in church when music was played, my voice would change and I would go into a trance.” She even had an exorcism performed at church, which was “a very traumatic experience. I walk with strong male energies, male ancestors so when I evoked, my power was unbelievable. My family had a tough time, because we didn’t understand what it was,” she explains. She thought she had a curse.
A GIFT FROM THE ANCESTORS
It took a while for her to fully accept and understand her healing powers. As a teenager, without even understanding why or how, she would do palm readings for her friends. “At 16, I would have premonitions. I had messages come to me and heared voices especially when in nature. It’s almost like nature awakened my spirit to seeing things I wouldn’t hear in the chaotic space of Alexandra. Alex is loud. When I was out in nature, there was stillness. I remember at Bible camp in Magaliesburg, I shared the messages I had with two friends. I asked them to open up their hands as a way of them to give me permission to tap into their personal space. We were teenagers, of course so they laughed. Two weeks later one was in hospital. This was something I had shared in the message,” she says.
After much introspection and struggles, she accepted her gift at the age of 29. It wasn’t going away. At the time, she was married to the father of her four children, Sibusiso (14), Sabelo (12), Samukeliso (7) and Siya (2). She spent 10 months in initiation school and tried everything to feel ‘normal’. But nothing worked. So she embraced her calling and since then, her life has been great. Today, Gogo Dineo is proud of her gift. “Poor me? For what? It’s an honour to be trusted with healing powers.”
BECOMING A SPIRITUAL TEACHER
While she might be one of the more popular sangomas in SA, she will never shift from her purpose. Which is why she started the Gogo Dineo Institute of Healing in 2016 where she trains sangoma initiates who have a calling. “I want to build an institute where I’m not the only practitioner. My calling is to become a spiritual teacher. I believe people should return back to something greater than themselves.
“We all have been given God’s voice. Call it holy spirit or intuition. It’s my work to strengthen that,” she says. In her quest to restore what she says is a sacred African practice, she believes her institute will be able to keep the legacy of Credo Mutwa alive. Mutwa is a celebrated spiritual healer who also wrote books.
“Every religion speaks of a connection through someone who isn’t living in the physical world. ‘Ancestor’ means the body doesn’t exist but the spirit lives. If we were truly ungodly, God wouldn’t have been happy that we are using his resources,” she says. Gogo Dineo often finds herself speaking against stereotypes of what a sangoma should be. “There’s this thing that sangomas have a specific look and are illiterate. “Being a sangoma doesn’t mean one doesn’t believe in God being the greatest. That isn’t true,” she says.
While she might seem like she has the ears of the ancestors, she’s also got her own struggles. She was known as Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi, but she’s not using the surname now that she’s going through a divorce. She’s human just like us, she says, which is why she has a problem when people see her as a ‘miracle worker’. “I am a channel. I always want to be honest about that,” she says.
“What people should know is that as a sangoma, I’m not responsible for people’s healing. I’m just a catalyst for it. “That’s why people who are also not ready to receive the kind of healing they are seeking will never be healed. It doesn’t matter how strong the muthi is. I don’t want people relying on me solely. I am leading them to the right path. If their level of readiness doesn’t match the level of their aspirations, the healing isn’t going to happen.”
She says she wouldn’t change anything about her journey. She’s got big plans lined up for her life and her school and believes it will come to pass. After all, she’s the one who has always said that “just because you don’t believe in, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”.