Gogo Skhotheni on embracing African spirituality

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Gogo Skhotheni.
Gogo Skhotheni.
Supplied to TRUELOVE

We’ve seen spiritual callings manifest in the lives of the people around us, including celebrities such as Boity, Letoya Makhene, Masechaba Ndlovu and Buhle Mda amongst others.

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With television shows such as Moja Love’s Dlozi lam and Mzansi Magic’s iZangoma Zodumo aiming to educate people on African spirituality and the lives of traditional healers, 29-year-old traditional healer, Patricia Motsoeni who is popularly known as Gogo Skhotheni, says that traditional healing is still misunderstood in communities.

“We have to teach and cancel the misconceptions and stereotypes that surround traditional healing in our communities,” she tells TRUELOVE.

The businesswoman, community leader, traditional healer and Gobela tells us all about her personal journey.

Please tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Patricia Tumi Motsoeni Shange, popularly known as Gogo Skhotheni, from eMbalenhle in Mpumalanga and I'm 28 years old. I am a Sangoma, businesswoman, Gobela with amathwasa; I work with ancestors and with spirits as well. Most importantly, I'm a wife and a mother to my lovely daughter.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love and care for people; that's one of my personality traits. My work allows me to help people. They come to me with all sorts of problems, some physical while others are emotional, and being able to use my gift to assist is the greatest feeling ever. When they leave, I find that I have gained sisters, mothers, and brothers because they become my family.

Why do you think spirituality is important, especially during these times?

These are difficult times, and spirituality should be our source of comfort. Spirituality helps us to be in tune with ourselves. When we live spiritually centred, we are able to find comfort, peace, healing, and even solutions from within ourselves. Spirituality puts us in a good position to share love for one another and this is one of the top things that are needed in our current situation; a world where we love and understanding each other.

What are some of the myths that some people believe about Sangomas and traditional healing?

One of the most disturbing myths about Sangomas is that we are people of destruction and witchcraft. For so long now, people have hardly associated Sangomas with doing good things in the community. Sometimes this goes as far as people blaming Sangomas for the things that go wrong in communities. This is a false stereotype and a lot of work still needs to be done to remove this stigma from the work that Sangomas do. 

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How do you find the balance between being a traditional healer, a businesswoman, and a young person?

It is not easy at all but I pray and always tell myself that this is the duty that I've been tasked with in the world. Other than that, I have a very solid support system; my husband is always there to give me the support, courage, and strength to continue moving forward in my journey.

What would you say to someone who does not believe that religion and culture can co-exist?

It is very possible for religion and culture to co-exist. What is needed most is for us as people to have a neutral discussion that is fuelled by the will to learn and understand each other. In that conversation, you will find that there are more similarities than differences that we can use to build from so that we can coexist in harmony.

What are some of the challenges you face in your line of work as a Sangoma?

As weird as this may sound, one of the challenges comes from within the traditional healing community. Sometimes you find that there is very little unity and even jealousy amongst the community. Also, one of the challenges is the lack of full acceptance of Sangomas within our societies.

You manufacture and sell cosmetic products such as soaps, what do these products help with and who should be using them?

The products are inclusive, anyone can use them. We saw a gap in the market as many products are in powder form as Isiwasho, hence we decided to incorporate such things as soap that people can use on a daily basis. These products can help with good luck and cleansing bad spirits.

What are some of the things you’ve implemented to bring a modern touch to traditional healing?

I've done quite a lot so far. For example, the normal consultation would require one to go to a Sangoma physically, I go the modern way and consult those who can't make way to me digitally. Also, in as much as I always incorporate the traditional Sangoma wear, I ensure that I dress nicely as a young person. This way I can be a good example to many other young people who are starting their journey not to fear losing the essence of being young.

How do you think the perspective on traditional healing has changed over the years?

Even though there is still a long way to go, the perspective on traditional healing has - over the years - taken some good strides in terms of change. Many people are beginning to accept and go back to their roots of traditional healing. They are also accepting that traditional healers are not there to cause harm but are there to assist people in connecting to their ancestors and offering solutions to the problems that people face in their lives. We are slowly getting there.

What advice would you give to someone who is yet to accept their calling and does not know how to go about it?

It can be quite a difficult thing to accept because many times you might find that the person grew up in a Christian family. As a result, they might have no knowledge at all about how to go about their calling because it's not anything that they've ever been exposed to. My advice would be to open your heart and spirit to learning. It's not going to be an easy journey, so be prepared. Pray for strength. Most importantly,  accept the calling because the calling itself is not a curse, and have no fear as the spirits will guide you.

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