A documentary journal by Bambatha Jones.
Isaiah Mloyiswa Mdliwamafa Shembe was the founder of the Ibandla lamaNazaretha. When he died on May 2, 1935 he left behind one of the most influential churches in Africa. The Nazareth Baptist Church was and is totally separate from missionary churches and is in no way dependent on them for ideas or financial support. Religion can play a holistic role in determining a person’s understanding of his/ her origin and purpose. Shembe found a powerful medium through which he could voice his concerns as an African in colonial times, while praising and worshipping God.
Earlier this year Bambatha Jones set out to Zuurbekom to document their annual early year gathering. The aim of the journal is to create updated documentation of African customs as a means of awareness and education. Bambatha explains how he was invited to the gathering as a guest and decided to take his camera along. The early morning trek to the isolated plot where Shembe devotees camped for the entire weekend signified an attempt to normalise the portrayal of African religion by means of portraiture.
In a modernised and white-washed society Nazaretha gatherings and performances continue to be rituals of empowerment for the members, a majority of whom are economically, socially and politically marginalised long after the passing of Shembe.
Photos by Bambatha Jones
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