Story Behind The Lens #1 – No Luck With The Ancestors

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No Luck With The Ancestors

There is a small piece of land along the Eastern Cape of South Africa called the Transkei.  The land is well known for it’s rugged terrain and unpredictable seas.  Transkei offers a real African landscape of open fields and rolling hills dotted with small rondavals homes to the Xhosa people.  The coastline doesn’t offer many signs of modern civilization, there is no electricity and no tarred roads.  I had a memorable childhood in the Transkei. I grew up barefoot along the shores while learning how to fish and live off the land.  My parents have a small fishing cottage in the village of Mtentu.  Many of the locals know my dad as “Captain”and consider him a part of their community.

The Xhosa have traditional healers known as a Amaxwele.  It’s believed that ancestors from the spirit world can give the traditional healers instruction, advice to kill illness, social disharmony and spiritual difficulties.  Although it sounds a bit “out there” I have always had an open mind and curiosity drew me in.

RELATED ARTICLE: Transkei: The Wild Coast of South Africa

My dad arranged for me to meet an Amaxwele near his cottage.  It had rained the whole week and the roads getting to the healer were wet and muddy.  I was excited, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t need any healing but was hoping to get a blessing of good luck and good health from the ancestors.  On our way there we took a detour to a spaza shop (a local shop selling the very basics) and bought a pack of white candles.  We were told by a local boy that we each need to provide the healer with a white candle in order to receive a blessing.  We had finally arrived and immediately greeted at the property by a dog who alerted its owner that strangers had arrived.

The Amaxwele explained that due to the weather she was unable to connect with the ancestors.  We left it at that, perhaps they foresaw that no luck was needed.  There was an abnormal amount of rain for this time of year which I guess play’s a part in the nature….. and spirit.

This was the Amaxwele’s homestead and our greeting….

READ: More stories in the series “Story behind the lens” here


Have you ever been on a unique local adventure while traveling? Have you too had no luck with the ancestors or seen a Amaxwele?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Situated in the heart of the TRANSKEI, South Africa. This is the first "Story Behind The Lens" photography post. This photo's is about meeting a Amaxwele in the rural Transkei, South Africa "No Luck With The Ancestors" #transkei #easterncape #southafrica #travelafrica #photography


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Liza Williams

Born in South Africa, fascinated with culture and loves wood fire pizza. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away” Follow me on twitter: @soul_drifters

12 thoughts on “Story Behind The Lens #1 – No Luck With The Ancestors

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  • February 20, 2018 at 2:39 pm
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    This is such an interesting post. I do believe that, in this world, there are people who can communicate with spirits or can see things that normal people do not see. Perhaps, the fact that the healer could not connect you to your ancestors might be a sign in itself 🙂 either it was not the time to learn or you were on the right path already, as you said. Good luck in everything you set out to do!

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  • February 19, 2018 at 7:39 pm
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    Such a gripping story! It must have been so amazing to grow up in a remote place like this! I had no idea about Amaxwele or Xhosa people. I wonder what would have happened if the Amaxwele lady was able to connect with the ancestors!

    Reply
  • February 19, 2018 at 9:50 am
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    I never heard of Transkei located at Eastern Cape of South Africa but thanks to your post, as it widened my knowledge. I loved how you tried to visit a place where you spent your childhood. Though this place is away from modern world but its proximity from ancestral world tempts me to visit this place. I am also curious about traditional healers and want to know more. Though you have not completed your tour but next time, hopefully you will be able to connect with ancestors.

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  • February 17, 2018 at 10:23 am
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    This is why I love reading travel blogs – I would never have heard about Transkei otherwise. Hope you get another chance to experience it properly in the future when the weather is better!

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  • February 15, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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    Even though the experience didn’t work out as planned, that’s still a wild story to get to tell! Hopefully you’ll get a chance at a redo one day when there’s better weather. In the meantime, I’d still count this as a very memorable cultural experience!

    Reply
  • February 15, 2018 at 3:18 pm
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    I know nothing about this group of people in the Eastern Cape so it was an interesting read. I can only remember being in Mexico, and spending time with the Mayan people who almost adopted me at one point! Looking forward to the next tale.

    Reply
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  • January 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm
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    This is the first time I am hearing about Transkei and this was a great story to read. When would it be the best time of the year to explore it?

    Reply
    • January 11, 2018 at 9:03 am
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      Hi, you can visit Transkei any time of year really. 3 really nice places to look up is Mtentu Lodge, Hole in Wall and Ungazi River Lodge. They all do amazing hikes and have amazing things to offer. If you need any assistance please let me know.

      Reply
  • January 10, 2018 at 1:48 pm
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    What an interesting adventure nonetheless. Thanks for sharing.

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  • January 8, 2018 at 12:12 pm
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    Wow. Glad you took it all in stride. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Reply

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