THEY CAME from the water while the world watched

Giya Makondo-Wills

2016 - 2018

South Africa

Through this work I have been exploring indigenous South African Ancestral belief and Christianity, in relation to 19th century missionary activity and the colonisation of the country. It discusses the attempted dismantling of Ancestral religion and its replacement with Christianity, the sanctity of keeping traditional beliefs alive and the adaptation to the world we know today. The title ‘They Came From The Water While The World Watched’ is a reference to the initial European migration and colonisation of South Africa and the Western world’s indifference to the perpetration of this act.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • The shore saw people from North of the equator, their hands ready.

  • In a leafy suburb of Johannesburg you can find an English Pub where you can find a shrine created by a man who misses the land he left over forty years ago. Adorned in Union Jack flags and old Apartheid era street signs it is a homage to Empire and British Colonial rule.

  • Many Sangoma's (traditional healers) use a Kudu horn to call the ancestors. A battle cry that runs through generations, the horn reverberates through the blood of the resilient; a call to fight against systematic oppression and white supremacy.

  • With varying degrees of legitimacy, trained Sangoma's have to battle the stereotypes of being con-artist and witches. Prolific flyers advertise penis enlargement, spiritual cleansing of the home and can be found on the streets of Johannesburg.

  • The altering of the traditional domestic space was also of paramount importance to the missionaries. The removal of a cyclical and communal way of living, with traditional round houses to the small rectangular shape with doors, dividing rooms and ‘privacy’ altered how people lived within their homes.

  • Frank Chauke was the first Sangoma I collaborated with. He is one of the most sought-after healers in Southern Africa. Now in his nineties he has been practicing for over seventy years. He runs a school for traditional healers to ensure that this practice will be passed on to the next generation.

  • A method used by missionaries was the ‘colonisation of the conciousness’. It was the deomnizing of traditional practices and implimentation of Western ideology which spanned from clothing and currency to the standardized time system.

  • Holy Crusades are still held across South Africa. The leader of the Evangelical ministry came from five generations of missionaries originating in Germany. She preached to the crowd in English with an interpreter. She claimed to heal paralysis, cancer and aids. At the end of the five days, there was on-sight baptism.

  • A tool used by missionaries was the removal of objects that relate to Ancestral worship and using them to raise funds of the missionary cause. This object was sold to Bristol museum in the U.K in 1898 and now sits in the British Empire Collection. They were used as 'proof of savagery' and the 'urgent' need to Westernise.

  • All the recorded mission stations built in South Africa between 1800-1925. There is no recorded death toll that related to missionary activity.

  • These items are from a Muti factory in Johannesburg. They are creating products that relate to Christianity and Ancestral practice with the aim to engage the next generation.

  • This site is often called the resting place of the Ancestors. Those who live in these mountains bury the dead in the entrance to the hills. After five years they are excavated and taken deep into the mountains to their final resting place. The water here is sacred.

    After I took this image, my camera fell into the water.

    I was told by my Uncle “The ancestors don’t want you to photograph too much. They are talking to you. That’s enough”.