The longstanding clash between cultural traditions, ancestral veneration and religion were vividly depicted through the University of Fort Hare theatre play Isandi Segubu (The Sound of the Drum).
The hour-long isiXhosa play followed Nondumiso, a young girl who discovers that she had the calling to be a traditional healer. This gives her many unbearable nights as the sound of the drum rings constantly in her ears, waking her up in wild jolts.
But she was born into a Christian family, and the calling goes against the religious beliefs of her father. During a conversation with her uncle, Nondumiso says: “This calling goes against all our beliefs at home. We’re saved. We don’t believe in ancestral callings.”
Her uncle then assures her that ancestral callings are not demonic evil spirits but an integral part of the isiXhosa history and heritage.
The play is a jab at how religious influences have infiltrated African traditions and turned black people against their roots.
Nondumiso’s parents eventually give in to her calling, which brings healing and restores peace to her life.
Director Yanga Mabetshe, a social sciences honours student at UFH, told the Daily Dispatch that the play was inspired by psychological clashes between tradition and religion.
“We wanted to explore the complexity of beliefs and the way Christianity has colonised and influenced the African traditions used by our forefathers.”
He said none of the cast members were drama students at the university.
“We all just came together for this play. It’s the first time in the history of UFH that we have a drama play at the Arts Festival.”
Many audience members were moved on a personal level. Asisipho Ginya said: “This was so deep. Even if you go to church to try run away from a calling, it’ll follow you until you heed. When it calls, it calls.”
Ziyanda Mooi said: “I’m raised in a Christian home but I have a family member who is a traditional healer. This play gave me a different perspective.
“A calling is not something people choose for themselves.”