The goddess, the festival and
Nomkhubulwane is the
goddess of rain, nature and fertility. A festival in honour of the
goddess was held annually over 200 years ago, but with the introduction
of Christianity, the worship of the female aspects of the gods waned,
although the worship of the male aspect, Unkulunkulu, remained.
Patience Gugu Ngobese (Nomagugu), decided when she was an honours
student in Drama at the University of Natal in 1996, to revive the
Nomkhubulwane Festival. The idea had come to her in a dream in 1994,
and she has now left the teaching profession and become a sangoma.
the maidens who participate in the festival must be virgins, according
to ancient custom, the custom of virginity-testing was also revived, as
part of the festival. This has led to the controversy between the
sangomas (traditional healers) and traditionalists who support this
practice, and those who oppose it, many of whom support the Commission
on Gender Equality and belong to the Midlands Women's Group. The
spectre of HIV/Aids has made the controversy even fiercer. The Alan
Paton Centre held a debate between these two opposing views in 2000.
Information on this debate and the Virginity Testing Conference held by
the Midlands Women's Group in 1999, is available at the APC.
available is the video of the Nomkhubulwane Festival 1996 made by
Nomagugu's supervisor, Kendall, entitled 'Calling the Zulu Goddess
Home', and a copy of Nomagugu's thesis. The APC also houses the oral
history project tapes and transcriptions made by the UNP Drama students
who visited the festival in 1996 and 1997 and interviewed participants,
sangomas, chiefs and other visitors.