Only through knowledge of the past can this torn and fractured society be healed.
The plundering of artefacts by colonialist and missionaries severed the current generations of South Africans connection with their powerful history.
Currently these artefacts are stored as a South African collection (approximately 5000 objects) in the Ethnography store of the British Museum. They have been hidden from view for over 150 years.
Within these stores lie the profound knowledge of an ancient African culture’s indigenous knowledge of astronomy, nature and the language of symbols which was used in all aspects of life: from education to healing, sacred ceremony, the legal system and the environment.
These ancient relics, some over 300 years old, collectively provide a Holy Grail for future generations. Their decoding provide a treasure map to restoring the links between humanity and nature, the living and the spirits.
The memory of an ancient spiritual and cultural knowledge of age-old practices of families, clans and villages are the essence of the African history. They are the seeds of the present and future, providing indisputable pointers towards increased knowledge and new areas of investigation, whilst allowing present and future generations the validity and dignity of their cultural experience.
The Holy Grail: From darkness to light, produced by Sangoma Productions and written by Sausage Film Company is a courageous project that aims to transfer the hidden, forgotten and largely ignored South African collection into a contemporary currency.
The decoding of this Holy Grail to the current and future generations will have the marked effect of “setting South African’s dreaming again and provide a new lease of life in our spiritually deprived society,” was a great dream in itself of the prophet Mutwa.
"I became filled with a fanatical obsession; I realized how rapidly Africa was changing. I realized to my shock and sorrow that the culture of my people, a culture that I had thought immortal, was actually dying." Credo Mutwa
INTRODUCTION: The Clues on the path to the South African Selection in the British Museum
In Credo Mutwa’s last public interview in 2015. He spoke of a “white witch” who had stolen all his work.
In 2018 I was attending a media event on Constitution Hill. A young man asked to borrow my pen. He took it and then he took off like a bat out of hell, across the gardens, down the stairs, through the parking lot, into the traffic and gone.
After demanding to speak to the organiser of the event, an attractive older lady came out. She took my pen story as a sign of the many stories she could tell and invited me to meet her in her office.
Her offices were on the top of floor of the Rosebank tower in a pristine set-up. Dozens of certificates of awards for contributions including Women of the Year in 2010 and wonderful African artefacts of great antiquity hung on the walls. Past large printing presses and secretaries, we arrive at her office. I plonk down in a comfortable armchair. She leans across her stately desk, decorated with rose quartz and a portrait of her father and in a half whisper says, “Do you know who Credo Mutwa is?”
Within half an hour she had proved that her story of Credo Mutwa is exhaustive. It began in 1984 when first read Indaba My Children. She saw this providing the answer to Los Angeles’s hunger for the archetype African film. Her Los Angeles film director friend was sold on the idea. She needed to get the rights to Indaba My Children.
Returning to South Africa, she located Credo Mutwa in Lotlamoreng dam, now Mafikeng and she travelled to meet him explaining the business at hand. 12 years later no film had ever been made. Credo Mutwa and his wife were living in her cottage and disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving behind only a small pile of chicken bones.
By that time Mutwa had lived through a barrage of disappointments. They had formed a joint venture Works of Credo Mutwa. It had obtained the film and publishing rights to nearly all Mutwa works including Indaba My Children. They had generated cultural villages in Sun City, Mafekeng and Shamwari. They had created luminous volumes of African Fireside Stories, a Comic Series and educational works on sports and other techniques of ancient African culture. They had toured three continents. But now, Mutwa and Virginia had nowhere to go but to the outside cottage of their business partner. Already in his late 70s, Mutwas made his final move to Khuruman in the middle of the night where he died as a pauper. As author of the so-called “Koraan of Africa” – Indaba My Children, he had been slowly and systematically stripped of his rights and his access to all his work. He had laid the blame at the feet of a business partner, rightly or wrongly so.
She moved out from behind her large desk and opened the glass cabinets on the wall where she began to pull file after file. This was her Credo Mutwa archive in full and final.
After 6 months of investigation I convinced her to publish a series of Mutwa’s Works to provide the High Sanusi with some much needed confidence and respite during the twilight years of his lifetime. On June 21st 2019 we met with David Gersham who holds the publishing rights to one of the audio recordings of a Credo Mutwa story.
A solid project that could have been completed within a week and provide the direction was inexplicably hijacked by a third-party interloper. The meeting was to discuss releasing the audio recordings of Mutwa’s recordings and ended up with an open proposal to build a “Disney Land” for Credo Mutwa’s work on Rosebank Mall Rooftop.
This was the same “Disney Land” mentality that had been used to ensure Mutwa’s ideas were always still-born and that his works had remained totally inaccessible for the last 30 years.
The archive - in its bits and pieces it provides a treasure map to finding the vision and purpose of Mutwa, that was taken from him like blood from a stone.
On September 21 2020 following the passing of Mutwa, it became apparent to me that Mutwa’s 1996 visit to the British Museum was the starting point for the crucial step in reclaiming the legacy of our forgotten prophet.
Hidden within some of Mutwa’s speeches at the time in London he refers to this collection as the Holy Grail – and that which has the power to lead his people out of darkness. The original footage of that visit was deposited at Albany museum Grahamstown and Museum Africa in Newtown and should be investigated.
ABOUT Vusa Ma Zulu Credo Mutwa 21 July 1921 - 25 March 2020
Vusa Ma Zulu Credo Mutwa was a Sanusi and High Priest of African Spirituality. He was known as “the most distinguished African traditional leader in the world.”
Through his long and remarkable life he expressed himself as an artist; philosopher; storyteller; sculptor; nature conservationist, author of ground-breaking books on African mythology, builder of cultural villages and healer through knowledge.
Mutwa turned to his calling of spirituality and divinity at the age of 16, when after a terrifying ordeal in Johannesburg, being seized and sodomized by a gang of mineworkers, he returned to his mother’s home in KwaZulu Natal to undergo a miraculous transformation to healing. His grandfather was the High Sangoma to the Zulu King Dingane and guardian of the umlando, cultural history. Mutwa was moulded by this deep oral tradition and undertook to preserve his cultural legacy and undertook initiation from one of his grandfather’s daughters, Myrna.
Mutwa received a further initiation at the great standing stones of Adam’s Calendar just outside Nelspruit, in the Blue Swallow heritage site in 1937. He said the Zulu’s named this site, 'Inzalo ye langa,'place of the sun.
Between 1946 and 1965 Mutwa furthered his African mythology research through his work with Mr AS Watkinson in the tourism industry and curio shops in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe and Kenya. His studies into African artefacts inspired his great capacity for storytelling and led to the publishing of his first collection of stories, Indaba My Children in 1964. This he described in the introduction as ‘a strange mixture of truth and nonsense.’ The book was a critical success, selling well over 250 000 copies and still selling to this day. Its deep cultural significance was universally acclaimed. Kimberley newspaper, Diamond Field Advertiser wrote: “Mutwa’s book could one day mean to Africans what the Koran means to Muslims.”
However, Mutwa’s purely non-political and centralist stance during apartheid alienated him from both the left and the right of the old South Africa. Although his primary concern was that Africans should be free to preserve their distinct cultural customs and way of life, outsiders confused this with the Apartheid policies of separate development.
In order to further his life mission of preserving Africa’s indigenous African knowledge systems for the sake of future generations he developed a blue-print for cultural villages representing the traditional cultures of all South African cultural groups.
In 1974, whilst employed by the South African National Parks Board as the attendant of the traditional African Tourist Village, he obtained permission and funds from the West Rand Administration Board with the shared intention of promoting ethnicity and attracting tourists to Soweto.
The first living museum was built on the seven hectares of land surrounding the Oppenheimer Tower. He called it Kwa-Khaya Lendaba, meaning “home of the story” in isiZulu, planted it with traditional herbs such as the highly revered aloe vera, constructed storytelling circle, providing a meeting of eclectic symbolism and vivid imagination, and thatched rondavels representing the homesteads of the many Southern African cultural groups.
After Mutwa gave evidence in the Cillie Commission, a one man investigation into the 1976 Soweto riots, his village was partially burnt down, although he and Tsietsi Mashinini (primary student leader of the Soweto Uprising)were friends and had even danced the fire dance together at Kwa-Khaya Lendaba before.
In 1978 Mutwa retreated to Bophuthatswana, Lotlamoreng Dam, now Mafikeng, and established another Kwa-Khaya Lendaba.
At the end of 1986, Mutwa’s most controversial book Let Not My Country Die was published. “Genuine reform can come not from politics but from the recognition by black and white alike of a common humanity,” he wrote. The book called for the release of Mandela and for politicians to put South Africa first. The day after this book was released he received a necklace threat over this message of peace and reconciliation.
From 1986 - 1998 Mutwa partnered with Lesley Ann Van Selm to document African history and travelled together to Australia for the Whale and Dolphin Conference, the sacred sites of Bolivia and Peru, and the British Museum of Mankind and Stonehenge in England to explore the similarities between ancient cultures. Together they conceptualized, “Usiko,” a therapeutic intervention using storytelling to instil self-esteem and identity among affected youths helping them to develop skills, create jobs and promote a spirit of sustainable entrepreneurship. The programme continues to this day under Khulisa Social Solutions, which has taken publishing rights to much of Mutwa’s works, including the unavailable, yet inspiring collection of folk tales - Isilwane, The Animal.
Mutwa was sadly distanced from the fruits of his labour and the royalties accruing to them, and often ridiculed by professors. Yet, he continued with his mission bravely and humbly; simply saying, “You cannot be angry at the ignorant.”
Mutwa was sought out by world leaders, mystics, benefactors and historians alike to glean from his valuable knowledge. He shared unconditionally with the likes of Bradford Keeney, author of Zulu High Sanusi, Stephen Larson, author of Song of the Stars, David Ike who recorded the Reptilian Agenda DVDs and Michael Tellinger who drew on Mutwa for his research into Adam’s calendar.
He was known as a psychic, clairvoyant and audiovouyant. He predicted the assassinations of President Kennedy and Hendrik Verwoerd. His 1979 prophecy in a painting of the 911 attack hangs in the meditation room of his Soweto village. He turned down an offer of $8 Million to purchase this vivid and dramatic piece full of symbolism.
In August 1997 she sent an urgent fax message from Princess Diana in Kensington Palace requesting a meeting. Mutwa was with the Aboriginal people in Australia and could not respond.
His powerful sixth sense was a curse to him, as he would see terrifying events before they happened. Mutwa was a humble man. He dedicated his lifetime to ensuring that his great knowledge of cultural roots would be preserved to inspire future generations. He has left many jewels of African indigenous knowledge, cultural history, lifestyle and philosophy. And he has left the whole world with enduring spiritual insight. “The future,” he said, “is like clay: it can be moulded.”
The fire of Mutwa’s great passion and life’s work continues to burn brightly in the many people he has touched and will continue to inspire. In 2019 the National Lottery Commission constructed the Credo Mutwa Museum and Library in Kuruman for the use of the community. Although complete the library is still very short of books and permanent displays. It is a stone’s throw away from his home, where he is survived by his widow Virginia.
Mutwa’s daughter Nozipho together with two other children are the directors of the Credo Mutwa Foundation which aims to bring more exposure to his work, whilst in the Soweto Cultural Village, Lebo Sello preserves the powerful Mutwa legacy.
A visit to Kwa-Khaya Lendaba: Home of the Story
In the midst of sprawling and bustling Soweto, beneath the high point of the Oppenheimer Tower are the sacred gardens and living museum of the continents most revered holy man.
Kwa-Khaya Lendaba, meaning “home of the story” in isiZulu, was the first living museum built and designed by 98 year old Sanusi, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa who currently lives in his cultural village in Kuruman in the Northern Cape. A Sanusi is the highest grade of African sangoma (healer), a role that Mutwa was destined to, being the grandson of the High Witchdoctor to the Zulu King Dingane.
After initiation in 1937, Mutwa’s search for the “knowledge and truth about my people,” as he called it, was developed through a wanderlust that took him all over the continent to document the story of the elders. His work in the curio and safari market in Kenya, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and Johannesburg during the 50s developed his imaginative synthesis of traditional history, indigenous medicine and sacred artefacts and sites and resulted in the genius work Indaba My Children published in 1966.
He was at once established as the guardian of Zulu tribal history and the most distinguished African traditional leader in the world and wassought out by world leaders, mystics, benefactors and historians.
Mutwa’s life mission was to preserve Africa’s indigenous African knowledge systems for the sake of future generations to restore and maintain a pride in African cultural roots. His solution was establishing cultural villages in Southern Africa as a permanent repository for the great people and practices that defined the ancient African way.
Mutwa’s wish was for African culture to “bring together the people of the world with the greater understanding of one another thus nurturing a respect of different tribes, aspirations and origins,” as he said in an interview.
In 1974 Mutwa obtained permission and funds to build his first living museum onthe seven hectares of land surrounding the Oppenheimer Tower. This tower was situated on a strategic high point of Soweto and was built in 1963(the year Soweto got its name) as a symbolic landmark honouring the loan of 3 million pounds given by Ernest Oppenheimer and the chamber of mines to construct the massive township.
Mutwa planted a variety of indigenous plants to attract the birds and insects and built a living museum to bring his stories of African mythology, culture and spirituality to life.
In the center of the village is the storytelling circle, providing a meeting of eclectic symbolism and vivid imagination in what Mutwa termed in the introduction to Indaba My Children as a “strange mixture of truth and nonsense.”
In the midst of giant clay sculptures of the gods of creation, uNkulunkulu, with four faces representing the four races, and the African Goddess or Earth Mother, Nomkhubulwane; two baby boys argue over their penis-size whilst an alien observes from high up on a pole. A criminal’s upended feat protrude from a traditional grave-site and dinosaurs roam near a cattle kraal. In the meditation room is Mutwa’s 1979 prophecy in a painting of the 911 attack. He turned down an offer of $8 Million to purchase it.
The village includes thatched rondavels representing the homesteads of the many Southern African tribes, including Tswana, Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa and Southern Sotho groups. A bust of King Shaka stands with a pink mohawk. He is overlooking a remodelling of Kwa Dukuza (Placeof the LostPerson) the capital of his empire, resplendent with huts for himself, mother Nandi, aunt Mkabayi, and grandparents.
The mid 70s was a golden era for the village as traditional healers collected bark and leavesfrom the variety of African healing plants such as the highly revered aloe vera. The children of Soweto attracted by the drumming, dancing and storytelling of the healers frequented the village whilst Johannesburg City offered regular bus tours.
However in the wake of the 1976 revolution and in direct response to Mutwa giving evidence to the Cilliers Commission (a piece of history preserved in the stunning Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum), the village was partly burnt down rendering huts and artefacts largely destroyed and forcing Mutwa to evacuate this African cultural shrine, and the country and move to Lotlamoreng Dam in Mahikeng, previously Bophuthatswana. Here he built his next living museum.
After an extended dormancy, in 2006, the City of Johannesburg put out a tender for the restoration of Kwa-Khaya Lendaba. An original sculptor Musa Ntanzi, who had worked side by side with Mutwa, won the tender and immediately began to fix the chips in the broken clay sculptures and re-thatch the rondavels.
Life was restored to the village attracting the return of artists, traditional healers and young historians. Lebo Sello had been one of the many children in the late 70s that had followed the sound of the African drumming to this village to revel in the inspiration of the traditional healers and storytellers. He now lives on site and preserves the powerful legacy like a disciple of the positive “energy of the universe,” as he put it.
Over the last 14 years he has developed a passionate and impressive knowledge of the living museum and Mutwa’s prophecies and folklore and shares insights to this unique combination of indigenous African culture and nature with foreign and local visitors alike.
As Sello explained, “Each and every country of the world you find a place where people can come and connect spiritually. Kwa-Khaya Lendaba is like that. It serves the purpose of balancing your energy and cleaning your aura.”
Now in its 46th year, and although still a work in progress, Kwa-Khaya Lendaba is indeed as one international visitor called it, “another piece in the puzzle of the great Credo Mutwa.”