Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa
Thandeka Mtshali

Credo Mutwa has been given a number of names in his life time; High Sanusi, storyteller, artist, to some he is a (living) legend in South Africa that needs to be celebrated and appreciated, author at most times what he writes about in his books always cause some sort of discussion that some have chosen to disregard what he has to say. Credo Mutwa has not only been a subject for many people due to his take on certain issues that have affected Africa in general and South Africa especially. But he is such an interesting man in the sense that he has one foot in tradition and the other in modernity. This is the reason of this essay, trying to find out where does Credo Mutwa fit in? Which box does he fit in when one is talking and dealing with South African Intellectuals and the topic of Modernity? One of the aims of this essay is to see how Credo is balancing tradition and modernity (if at all) as well as to learn more about the man and where he comes from and his family and background, and the influence that his family has played in his life. I will show why I think that his family has had a lot to do with the kind of man that Credo is today. That is not the main aim of this essay the main aim but to discuss Credo Mutwa in relation to modernity and the reason behind the inclusion of Credo Mutwa by Ntongela Masilela as one of the intellectuals in the New African Movement.

The Family Influence:

Credo Mutwa was born in Zululand in July 21 1921 his father was a Catholic catechist. Credo parents separated when Credo was still a baby when his mother refused to convert into Christianity, Credos' mother came from a long line of traditional healers and she did not believe in converting to Christianity, “…they wanted to get married but the white missionaries forbade my father from marrying my mother until she became a Christian….' ( Credo lived with his father and his stepmother in Transvaal where his father worked as a carpenter the family finally settled in Johannesburg were Credo got a job at a curio shop he attended school while he was 14 years old.

He moved back to Zululand with his mothers' family after 30 years of living in the city. He started getting sick when he was in the city and he went back to Zululand where he was cured by his grandfather a traditional healer. That is when Credo found out that he was meant to be a Sangoma (traditional healer). Mutwa started working with his grandfather are carrying his bags and traveling with him on his missions. Vusamazulu abounded Christianity and that resulted in his father excluding him in his family since he was a Christian.

It is very clear the influence if that is the right words to use to describe the life that Credo Mutwa has been living and still living, the choices that he has made especially the confusion that one feels when dealing with Credo Mutwa where does he stand? Tradition or modernity and his family has shaped the life that he is living at first he was a Christian he went to school and got what he calls the 'White mans education'. When one is called upon by the ancestors to become a Sangoma the ancestors are part of your family and many times the family the ancestors have a big part in your life they dictate what your life will be like and that is why I say that Credo Mutwa was no different. The ancestors called him to become a Sangoma, his family. Most time when someone becomes a Sangoma it is passed down from one generation to the other.

It was the same as well when he was living with his father he became a Christian and he went to church and stayed in the city, which gave him a lot of room to experience a Christian life that was shaped by his father in most part. But it is strange that Mutwa is more involved in tradition now than before when he was building centers in Soweto to improve the community until he goes back to Zululand and he is initiated into a traditional healer. That is why Credo Mutwa is such an interesting man in that he was Perhaps the one singular distinction of Credo Mutwa within the various generations of New African intellectuals is that he moved from tradition to modernity and back to tradition.” (Ntongela Masilela)

An analysis of his writings:

" .. To tell the world the truth about the Bantu people and so save many of my countrymen the agony of the bereavement we felt..." (My People page xiii)

One of the hardest things about Credo Mutwa is finding out where he stands when it comes to modernity he is a High Sanusi and yet he has written a number of books that deal with the issues that are affecting the world and Africa . The aim of his books is to teach those that do not know about the life of the African and let those who don not know more, he writes in the introduction from MY PEOPLE that what has been written by the white man about Africa is a lie and it is time that the Africans tell their own stories. The way that Mutwa teaches people about Africans is the same method that was used in the olden days, through storytelling, he is keeping alive the art of oral tradition and that is only when he is traveling around the world attending conferences and talks about African history.


One finds while reading this book is that Credo Mutwa is trying to explain at times the unexplainable or the hardest to explain and he is able to take everything back to Africa and he does so through storytelling for example in the chapter titled 'The Beginning' he is offering a different view point as to where human beings come from. His vast knowledge of African history is one that is very evident in this particular book. He started traveling around Africa when he was still young and learning the different cultures and customs of other African cultures in his travels.

What he is also trying to show and teach through this particular book is how everyone in the whole universe is connected in one way or another, his knowledge of African culture and beliefs he has been able to connect the lives of Africans living in South Africa as well as in other African countries, but not only that his travels have introduced him to other cultures around the world and he has been able to find the connection between people. Therefore his work should be seen as evidence as to show that what separates us is the doing of humans to each other. In the case of South Africa as a whole one sees that he tends to blame the colonizers for the way that African people have turned out and his solution is to go back to tradition and start to live the same way that people use to live in the times of Shaka Zulu.

ii) SONGS OF THE STARS: The Lore of a Zulu Shaman

This book the readers get to know the man Credo Vusamazulu as a healer and all his other titles. He is also continuation from where he left off in the first book MY PEOPLE. This book Credo talks about hoe he became a Sangoma and how one fin

The whole reason of including the analysis of Credo Mutwas' books is another way that he has been able to take this medium (literature) and use as a tool to carry on his teachings and learn more about him from those who have worked with him. in this book he using storytelling as a method to teach and bring across his theories on the issues that he mentions in the first book, but instead of using storytelling as a means to teach (though he does use it here and there) he is a storyteller as well. But he deals with other issues here as well he gives examples as to what he says for example in one chapter he talks about how language is connected from one culture to another . “...Gosi yibaname ... 'Gosi' means 'Lord,' which is very close to the Greek word, kyrios, which means 'Lord.' 'Yiba' means 'you,' 'ba,' means 'be,' 'name,' means 'with me,' (The word 'me' in Zulu means exactly the same as the English word, 'me' which refers to myself.)...I am talking Zulu and yet I have linked the three languages: English, Greek, and Zulu. This sentence is pure Zulu, but already I am leaping over boundaries customarily keeping languages and cultures apart." (Page 158 )

What Mutwa has offered Modernity?

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa is a man of many talents he is known by his people as the High Sanusi which he himself Credo believes the Sanusi is a "up lifter of his people" (page xv), which means that Mutwa is the leader of over 500 other traditional healers and he is the one that advises then whenever they have forgotten something, he is the one that they look up too. Before Credo Mutwa became a High Sanusi he was first a Sangoma (traditional healer) and because he knew so much he later was given this title. Not only is he a Sanusi/Sangoma but Credo Mutwa is an artist more a sculptress and he usually does sculptures of things that he sees in his dreams in one of his books the Song of the stars he does talk more about the sculpture of who Mutwa calls 'the earth mother Ninavanhu-Ma. Most of his sculptures deal with the characters that come up from his dreams and his folktales.

Credo Mutwa as has been see from above he is a writer and he has written more books than the ones mentioned above. Most of his books deal with the same issue of teaching Africans and non-Africans about the culture and life of the African that Mutwa believes most books that have been written about African mostly the Bantu people is not correct and there is a need for him to tell the 'true' story of the life of the Bantu and where they come from and in doing so he tells the 'truth' through storytelling in the oral tradition that has been passed down to him.

He is a great teller and he uses his ability as a story teller to teach and inform most importantly about the life in Ancient Africa (I choose to use this word because he is talking about a time when there was no difference between people when people where one and they all spoke the same language and a time when there was harmony with the environment and a time when different species ruled the earth and no disruption was experienced and so forth.) All this could be found in his books especially MY PEOPLE, as well as SONGS OF THE STARS.

Not only has Mutwa offered Africa his vast and unique take on things of the world but he has built a number of what he calls Healing Villages that have been destroyed a number of times whether by the Apartheid government or they have been lost because of lack of financial support. One of the few surviving and still in the process villages' is the Ringing Rocks Village that Credo Mutwa owns a areas that young people come too and learn about the African culture and African art, and are open to "...people who have not been exposed to the traditional ways of understanding their own heritage." ( As an Intellectual he has seen the gap that is been needed by the youth especially those that don't know their heritage and he has built an infrastructure that will help people his people know where they come from.

Credo Mutwa in one case mentions John Langalibalele Dube as one of his mentors a man who did all he could to get his education despite of what anyone said and after that came back home and planted his knowledge so to speak by building Ohlange High School and starting the first Zulu newspaper and Mutwa admire Dube, therefore it is clear to an extent to see the reason as to why he saw the need to open an institution of some sort that will help the youth learn about their own culture as well as those who don't know African culture. (On John Dube xxvii Songs of the Stars: the lore of a Zulu Shaman)


It is clear to see why Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa is such an interesting man his ways of interpreting the things that are happening in the world are fascinating. But when one is analyzing the man ones needs to keep an open mind that what they are about to hear could be seen and interpreted differently than what one use to see things. That is one reason that Mutwa has risen to the highest status not only as a Sangoma but as a philosopher, writer and artist. Like most man that are considered intellectual in the New African Movement website they are men of great status and they each have seen and questioned the life in Africa as a whole as well as Southern Africa in general. There move to modernity whether through Christianity, Literature, Music and many more they have learnt their knowledge to the world as a whole and Credo Mutwa is no expectation, his initiation name says it all VUSAMAZULU which means "Awakener of the Zulus," (page xx) and not only has he 'awaken' the Zulus' only but the universe which is what modernity/ civilization was created for. To bring about a difference of some sort to those who are seen as lacking in that knowledge and let them join in and be awaken. A living treasure that has offered a space where to showcase and teach and inform the youth of its culture and being the Village and his books make him an extraordinary man that is able to see that times a changing and some things can't be changed but need to be changed and the only way to achieve that is for people to be one and start to learn and understand one another and in the process go back to the old world when all was one man and animal.

In the question of whether after all this research I know exactly where Credo Mutwa stands; for tradition or for modernity I don not know. I do feel that he is happy just being in the middle and (though I doubt he will agree with my conclusion that he is in the middle.) The essay has shown a man who has his feet firmly on tradition but I do not think that he knows Credo Mutwa himself exactly knows where he stands. He taking every opportunity that his is given to talk about preserving the African cultures and going back to tradition, which is one of the things that can't be done.

Mutwa Credo, Vusamazulu-edited by Larsen Stephen " Songs of the Stars: The Lore of a Zulu Shaman" (1996) Published by Station Hill Openings Barrytown,LTD.
Mutwa Credo,Vusamazulu " My People The Incredible Writings of Credo Vusa'mazulu Mutwa. Published by
Blue Crane Books Johannesburg , South Africa .
Masilela Ntongela New African Movement website