by Paloma Giustizieri
The swoosh of a lighter ignites a candle, then a stick of white sage incense. Thandiwe calls
upon and welcomes her ancestors with a prayer before we begin. "My name is Makhosi
Mkhondo, but you can call me Thandiwe."
Thandiwe grew up in the affluent area of Bedfordview and attended a private school from
primary, all the way through to matric. As an enthusiastic 18-year-old, Thandiwe attended
The University of Witwatersrand, registered to do a Bachelor of commerce in politics,
philosophy, and economics.
"So I used to be very Christian, I used to have a strong faith. And I think it was around matric when I stopped praying. And then in my first year, I took philosophy, and that made me rethink everything. People need to question why they believe things, and point out the flaws in their beliefs."
As many of us know, the path to choosing our future can be, in the simplest of terms, rough.
Thandiwe's artistic passions led her in the direction of fine arts and in her second year, she shifted her major to the arts. As Thandiwe navigated her way through university, she explains
that she would meet with people from all walks of life, who would come up to her and open
up their deepest, darkest secrets, without even knowing her.
"People would really go deep into their traumas, and I used to find myself in these situations often where I would have no memory of these experiences, almost as if someone was speaking through me. The people I would speak to seemed to be very impacted by the words that I would say."
Thandiwe would repetitively take on people's emotions, which was something that was
engraved into her character from a young girl. "When I figured out what an empath really is, I
related. And as an empath, you have to create armour, like an auric-shield."
In her second year, she began to have prophetic dreams. "A lot of people in my life would share things with me in my dreams, and then a few days later they would tell me the same thing in reality." As she would speak about her experiences of vivid dreams and the energies she would consume,many of her friends whose mothers were spiritual healers would tell Thandiwe that she had a calling to be a sangoma. "I would just laugh it off,” Thandiwe shrugs.
The downward spiral of Thandiwe's mental, physical, and spiritual health led her to consult
with a series of professionals ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, and medical doctors.
"I was in the pits. I wasn't myself. I would do things that were not necessarily in my
character. I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, and I think I was there for everyone else,
rather than myself. I felt very lost, I was failing."
Multiple people had communicated with Thandiwe that she might have a spiritual calling,
including friends and lecturers. This, however, was not met with open arms from Thandiwe.
"I had a lot of physical symptoms, mental symptoms. I was an old woman. I was always
sleeping – things were just not adding up as a 20-year-old."
Meditation was a practice that Thandiwe and her family were exploring. She attended a
meditation course in the October of 2019. In this course, she explains that she had an out of
body experience for the first time. "It was a guided meditation which took you into a very
deep meditative space. It was amazing. I felt so many very intense feelings that I do not think
anyone around me was experiencing."
Now, 2 years later, Thandiwe Mkhondo is within the intwasa process. The process itself is not
formalized, according to her. “Often I would get a message from my ancestors that they
would rather twasa me, instead of being below someone, and that is a very unconventional
way of approaching the spiritual journey”. Thandiwe explains that she seeks out elders to
help her through the process, but that she is in charge of her own journey.
Thandiwe is self-aware, wise beyond her years, and has a bright, brilliant energy. Her story is
a journey a lot of young, black South Africans experience. Her world was shifted upside-
down, her way of life has maneuvered into a space that blends tradition and modernity.
Through Thandiwe's journey, there is a message she would like to spread to youth like
herself, who might be in the beginning process of a spiritual calling: "Welcoming anybody
into your spiritual health needs to be done very cautiously. Just like a doctor will heal you, a
spiritual advisor must not make you sick. People will say to you, the reason why people with
a calling go through a lot of things, is because they need to be able to understand. You need
to know what this person is feeling, and create that deep empathy."
And most importantly, Thandiwe advises that as someone who embarks on the spiritual path,
they need to learn who they are, inside out. “It is hard to differentiate between what I want as
Thandiwe, and what my ancestors want. Therefore, it is important that you know yourself so
that you are able to draw the line between yourself, and your ancestors.”.