Thabiso Bhengu is celebrating his graduation from undergrad, the acceptance of his sexuality, and becoming a spiritual leader.
Ever since 2013, Thabiso Bhengu has been going through inner and outer battles.
The South African born student moved to Johannesburg in 2013 to study actuarial sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand. Unfortunately, he soon found himself struggling with boredom due to lack of interest.
“It was not a passion‚ it was something that ‘smart’ people and those who want money studied,” Bhengu told TimesLive, “Coming from a small town‚ the work did not encompass my reality. I am passionate about social justice‚ so in my second year I switched my studies to a BA in politics‚ philosophy and economics."
After shifting his major, Bhengu started to discover a new problem and that was the call to spiritual education. Bhengu says that he started to receive messages from his ancestors and even became partially blind. Bhengu interpreted all of this as a call to become a sangoma.
In South Africa, a sangoma is a traditional healer. Sangoma are practitioners of traditional African medicine, storytelling, and spiritual rituals like divination.
“I realized I had a gift when I started communicating with spirits on campus. I started becoming blind – I couldn’t see the question paper or any text in my textbooks. I had to leave school for sangoma initiation. I needed to accept my calling.”
To make matter even more interesting, Thabiso Bhengu won a R17‚000 prize in a competition, which he says was “exactly how much I needed for the initiation.” Thus, Bhengu took a leave of absence from his university to pursue his spiritual education.
Unfortunately, Bhengu met many trials during that time. First, Bhengu’s Christian family was confused by his sangoma initiation.
"It came across as though I was possessed by a demon. They did not understand where I was until I started warning them of the dangers. It was sad because to them I was a fortune-teller without a fortune. But eventually they came around."
Second, his sexuality caused several problems with finding a mentor. Bhengu had to go through five healers before he found one to teach him.
“I encountered so much jealousy because I am queer‚ young and in academia."
“At some healers I was almost raped‚ and I was robbed all the time. At the end I found someone who guided me and initiated me the right way‚” he says.
All of that struggle took a toll on his mental health and Thabiso Bhengu fought against depression with the help of antidepressants and heavy tranquilizers.
The fighting and struggling however helped Bhengu eventually reach his goals of becoming a sangoma and graduating with his Bachelor’s degree.
Then this past Wednesday, Bhengu celebrated by wearing his sangoma clothing at the graduation ceremony.
“I saw the outfit I wore in my dreams in my first year‚” he says. “My ancestors instructed me to not wear suits or any of that.
“My graduation was a bittersweet triumph. It was a proclamation that some may have tried to make me hate my ancestors‚ but here I am!”
Now the University grad says he’s on to another battle.
“Now it’s on to the job hunting. It’s no longer a spiritual war but economic warfare on the black child!” he says.
Good luck to Thabiso Bhengu in all his endeavors.
h/t: Times Live