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Umoya: On African Spirituality Episode 5: The Art and Practice of Ukuzilanda – Fetching Oneself with Msaki

By  Athambile Masola & Milisuthando Bongela

As a burgeoning spiritual practice and carrier of ancestral energy, song has been a search light for song catcher Msaki’s journey into what she calls Ukuzilanda: the Art and Practice of Fetching Oneself.   In this episode of Umoya: On African Spirituality, we sit down with our friend and peer – acclaimed singer, songwriter and artist Msaki – to navigate the role that spirit has played in her craft, as well as to delve into her genesis and current reality as an artist who seeks to restore pride in the idea of African spirituality.

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Five episodes into Umoya: On African Spirituality, Athambile and I have received all kinds of feedback about the podcast from different people in different parts of the world. Some have been stream of consciousness texts of yasssssssss!!!! filled with multiple exists to multiple centres of questioning, and others have been the equivalent of a humble, satisfying social media like. Two responses however, have surprised us into thinking about other ways to put this content out there without losing its essence.  Two very intelligent humans on opposite ends of the earth have told each of us that listening to the podcast can sometimes “feel like work”, that it’s “deep” so that one cannot just listen to it at any point of one’s day as a way to relax or switch off. I can relate to this because I don’t always want to do emotional or spiritual labouring when I’m cooking or driving or whatever. Sometimes I just want to laugh or be taken into another world. So this is fair, reasonable and understandable feedback.  

I guess it’s because Athambile and I are seekers of knowledge systems and ways to be better at being human, knowing what we know about humans and our shared human history.  There are certainly days when I want to switch off and be delighted or eased into new information. But for the times when I am really scratching for knowledge, wisdom and just something that is rooted in my situation, my country, my experience as an African, I found that this didn’t really exist in the media I generally consume.  And thus, our beat, to use a journalistic term, is to point out the gaps in our spiritual lives and try to fill them with things that correspond with our collective need for a spirituality that is relevant to a larger human family.

And thus, Episode 5, as with previous episodes, speaks to this idea of searching for more suitable knowledge systems for our various conditions, but especially to us as young African people in a post-apartheid pathological state. Msaki is the first musician we have interviewed and we were interested in someone who is doing the kind of seeking we are doing, but using a different instrument.  In my previous conversations with her, I have heard Msaki say “Ndiyazilanda” (I am fetching myself) and use the term Ukuzilanda, a word she is using as a device if I may, to name the process she is undergoing as an artist in order to face herself, face her demons and free herself from all fear. It was a no brainer to invite her to speak on this concept, which she most recently put out there in the form of the hit house song Fetch Your Life, on which she collaborated with Prince Kaybee.

One of the most profound moments in this episode for me is when she boldly says “Nixokile guys” (You have lied), referring to the misrepresentation of indigenous spiritual practices by a dogmatic colonial Christianity.  As a response to the ways in which our history has been deformed, she shares the ways in with her relationships to her friends, collaborators and peers Nduduzo Makhathini and Sisonke Papu have helped to demystify certain cultural practices and African Spirituality, which I find a good case for widening our spaces of learning to include “relationships”.

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