KUPHAHLA – The problem with people who are going back to African Spirituality is that they approach the spirituality like they used to do in Christianity. They use their background in Christianity and bring it to our spirituality. They just do a substitution of words and names of deities. For example prayer and kuphahla are east & west and can never be done the same way. You cannot substitute prayer with kuphahla. You find them saying phahla pray everyday combining the two as one. My grandfather used to say once lies have been spoken often enough, when one speaks the truth it will be like you are the one telling lies. Sometimes I wish to write a full lesson about kuphahla but then decide not to because people are used to lies and are comfortable with those lies, if you come with something different they will reject it. Then at the end you end up saying Akukhule nelikhula lwako/Atilime tiye etjeni. I was exposed to kuphahla right when I was at 4 years old, I knww umsamo as early at that age. So what I normally write about is personal experience and knowledge from the elders. I have seen how a man goes to isibaya to phahla as my grandfather would wear his coat and go there Esibayeni. Kuphahla I have not learn about it in books, radio or tv but have experienced it and learnt it from the elders.
There are strict rules for kuphahla as compared to prayer. The problem is that people who have never been fully exposed to kuphahla since they were young want to teach us kuphahla, whilst they have been exposed to prayer not kuphahla. Some of those people are not even able to tell de difference between a likhaya and indlu as they have never stayed ekhaya but only know indlu. Such people end up approaching kuphahla like they approach prayer. After all they don’t even know how to separate between a house and a home (Umehluko phakatsi kwendlu kanye nelikhaya). Kuphahla always goes with area of jurisdictions and rights, yet prayer is for everyone and can be done anywhere, anytime and by anyone. There is so much hierarchical respect in kuphahla as compared to prayer, respect is very important in African Spirituality after all. There is talking (kukhuluma) with ancestors, reporting to ancestors (kubika), imphamba which has no equivalent word in english and there is kuphahla which we might say is to invoke the ancestors and ushweleta (to appease). All these are done different from one another as they are not the same. The problem is that when any of these are not done properly that might upset the ancestors bringing bad results instead of good results. I have met several people who say after I have done these and that for ancestors’ things got worse. Just as people are going to church every day we also need to have time to learn about our culture and spirituality.
Our spirituality was taught spiritually not just by reading books, and then you claim to know spirituality. Maybe the problem is that all of us want to be teachers without giving ourselves time to learn from the elders. Some are even bringing the feminist agenda into the African Spirituality without even learning how gender balance was done in African Spirituality. African Spirituality is the oldest spirituality in the world it does not need to copy anything from any religion or other spirituality, instead other spirituality and religions were formed and copied from African Spirituality. If we don’t do things right we will end up destroying the little we have. Some people who have access to radio and tv platforms, yet what they are teaching is misleading and the future generations will think it is right. Because if you don’t know what is right then you will fall for everything as right especially when you hear it from a radio and tv. Different clans have different ways of kuphahla, its not size one fits all. Some clans uses umcombotsi and snuff, some uses impepho and candles, yet some don’t use impepho and candles when invoking ancestors. But now it has been made as if everyone must use impepho and candles when talking to ancestors especially the white candles yet that does not apply to all clans. Umndawe and Inzuza does not uses candles at all, its only some mislead modern sangomas with Inzuza or Umndawe who use candles. In my clan we don’t use impepho and candles for kuphahla and most of the clans in Eswatini and Mozambique don’t either.
Unfortunately most of the elders have passed on without leaving any knowledge to the children and the children are just walking in darkness without any information about their clan. Even bunyanga and bungoma is being westernized these days to conform to the standards of this western world, as a result our sangomas and tinyanga have lost the essence of their calling. Some are saying they are moving with times (Sangoma noma Inyanga lephucukile) while losing the essence of their calling. They end up claiming that bavalwe bogobela ngobe logobela bekabona kutsi yena unemandla kakhulu kunalogobela). The ancestors cannot guide you to someone who has less power than you for initiation and they cannot also guide you to someone who will make you not to work(akuvale). These days you even find sangomas and tinyanga who are new to the calling operating as bogobela they don’t have any experience in the calling but are also initiating others, no one wants to give himself or herself time to learn everybody wants to be teachers. When it comes to African Spirituality we need to know that just as east is separated from the west so is African Spirituality separated from religions especially Christianity.
We cannot practice African Spirituality using the same principles of Christianity. Kuphahla and prayer are east and west, totally different from one another. Most of our sangomas and tinyanga are Christians and that has brought confusion to them and the community as they are mixing religion and African spirituality. Tinyanga are people who are supposed to have a deeper understanding of our spirituality they are the ones who should be teaching people not to mix Bunyanga with religion especially Christianity. A person cannot be Inyanga or Sangoma at the same time be a Christian. Its same like you cannot be a Muslim and a Christian at the same time. Kuphahla goes with an area of jurisdiction, rights and hierarchical order and before uphahla you need to understand the role of the four surnames that controls your life especially the hierarchy of those surnames in your life. Some people receive bad results after invoking their ancestors because they did not follow the order and the ways of Kuphahla. Some end up going back to Christianity because they don’t see the results they wanted. In the bible they said Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, it’s the same in our Spirituality – our people need to be taught how to phahla and get good results. Prayer ne kuphahla are completely different from one another and cannot be substituted for the other. I hope one day I will have time to teach those who want to learn about kuphahla. Siyinduna Mapopo Rampane Ndauwe