Rod Suskin

Sangoma Rod, 2013. Photo: Cheila Dorje

Rod Suskin's Alumni Talk

Reviewed by Janet Carrol

On Thursday, 14 July, 2016, Sophirista's from all over the globe gathered via WebEx for another of our Alumni Association's popular wine and cheese discussions, this time with Rod Suskin from South Africa.

Rod's presentation was of his dissertation: 'White Sangomas in the Post-Apartheid South Africa: Has Freedom Changed Bantu Shamanism?' Rod took us on a brief journey through his ethnographic research of interviewing another culture: an extremely remote and rural tribe in the Eastern Cape area of Africa which is isolated from Western influences.

Rod Suskin Event

A print screen of the online Alumni Event

Not only did Rod share his findings, he also shared his own very rich and insightful personal experiences of being a 'white' sangoma since 1982. Rod shared that being a sangoma is not a black versus white issue, nor a male-female issue. Sangomas represent their ancestors reincarnated, they refer to each other as brothers or sisters, and their arduous and difficult training can take anywhere from three to over six years to complete. Pre-apartheid it was thought that white people didn't have their ancestors to guide them because they were cut-off from their ancestors. Post-apartheid, since 1994, Rod shared that there are more white people initiated into the Bantu shamanistic traditions and this is believed to be so because white people were connecting with their ancestors.

Rod provided us with ample material and wonderfully rich insights into sangomas, their beliefs and practices as a culture, its continuing evolution within South African society, along his own prolific and insightful experiences as an insider and an outsider. It was an exceptional presentation and it was wonderful to see so many of the MAs new faces, along with those of us who have been around for a few years. Many thanks to Darrelyn and the Alumni Association for organizing these informal wine and cheese events that bring us Sophiristas together from all over the globe so we can continue to have inspiring and thought-provoking dialogues.

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