Mzansi Magic's new reality show iZangoma Zodumo arrives conveniently at a time when a wave of articles about how COVID-19 has affected sangomas has been floating around the media. General media attention on sangomas using the net has been focused on how sangomas exist online and use digital technology.
The show itself is frankly and ironically nothing to write home about. Much like most reality television, it is an undeniable guilty pleasure. However, the show fails to distinguish itself from the sea of reality television shows available, particularly in the Mzansi Magic multiverse. Even its attempts at dramatics like when Gogo Khanyile, the rough around the edges thwasa is ‘forced’ to take a drug test results in a contrived and cringeworthy anticlimax. Other moments like the beef between Gogo Maweni and Baba Ngwembala about letting others consult on one's behalf are equally aimless and artificial.
Though a critic could be charged with not having paid proper attention. What Izangoma Zodumo delivers is exactly as advertised. Rather than aspire for any depth, the show seems to be a reflection of popularity as the name suggests. While any endeavors at substance seem staged, the reality of Izangoma Zodumo as popular icons for whom ubungoma is a mere means to an end is believable.
The media and online response reflect this idea that the point is not ubungoma itself but the hype that was generated. The show garnered the unsurprising outrage of outspoken poet Ntsiki Mazwai as evidenced by a recent tweet and black Twitter is aflutter with all manner of commentators who seem to have a say.
In the midst of the commotion, one of Izangoma Zodumo’s stars Gogo Maweni appears to be living her best life. She has tens of thousands of followers on Instagram with whom she shares images of spiritual happenings like imgido and announcements about upcoming appearances or muthi sales. While her public appearances are many, any attempts to reach the sangoma for consultation are futile. An answering service on the telephone numbers provided on her pages is all you can expect. It appears the public persona precedes any actual healing practice.
To be fair there are scenes in the show which might give a novice insight into the aesthetic of ubungoma, but these are fleeting and clearly not the point. Watch this show if you're bored or curious about the hype, but not if you have any genuine interest in traditional healing practices.