Original Research

The influence of ancestral spirits on sexual identity amongst Traditional Healers (iZangoma) in South Africa: A discourse analysis

Khanyisile R. Mnyadi
Inkanyiso | Vol 12, No 2 | a40 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ink.v12i2.40 | © 2023 Khanyisile R. Mnyadi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 January 2023 | Published: 30 November 2020

About the author(s)

Khanyisile R. Mnyadi, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Over the years South African Traditional Healers have been discriminated against, with claims that they are ‘witch-doctors’. Non-heterosexual Africans are also often faced with the horror of violent attacks stemming from the belief that homosexuality is ‘un-African’. The harsh experiences of homosexual, bisexual and transgender traditional healers are, therefore, unimaginable. This study explored the spiritual (ancestral) influence on the sexual identity of African Traditional Healers, particularly iZangoma. The study revealed that for some iZangoma engaging in same-sex relationships is never a choice but ‘imposed’ or forced by the dominant ancestral guide, depending on which sex the ancestor was attracted to when they were still alive. This paper challenges the idea that homosexuality has never existed in Africa, and is therefore an import from the West. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: this study may potentially inform contemporary African debates around homosexuality and challenge how it is perceived amongst groups that are regarded as playing significant roles of healing and leadership in African communities. Since homosexuality amongst iZangoma is not a chosen identity but forced by ancestral guides, this calls for an end to discrimination against ancestral possession, homosexuality in Africa, and the double stigmatisation against iZangoma who are attracted to the same sex.


sexual identity; homosexual; bisexual; transgender; LGBTQI+; African Traditional Healer; iZangoma; ancestors; ancestral guide


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