The Metamorphosis of Identity: for the caterpillar never knows it is a butterfly!

Written by Nqobile Sibisi, from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Nqobile, 34, is a South African writer. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Sometimes the scariest confrontation is that between the mind, body and soul. When the human trinity is so out of sync, you feel a deep depression, an existential problem and pity for the conflicted frail species that you are. Human. A mere mortal.

The incongruence of my dreams and aspirations in my reality is the greatest travesty and perhaps the genesis of my dilemma. At a point in time, five years ago to be precise, it was devastation-in-waiting upon the realization that I would not remain in the stagnant state of my beautifully imagined self. And boy, had I imagined!

To say the least, I had an extraordinary childhood. I exuded confidence and a high intellect, a blueprint for greatness. It was no mistake that everyone around me, myself included, dreamt I would grace NASA or similar space programmes as an astronaut. A divergence later in life and due to exposure from my chosen journalism career, I could see myself owning a news wire network or a fully-fledged media satellite television company. I even imagined walking proudly in Silicon Valley as a digital media strategist.

A few years before that, at the end of high school, I was dead set on becoming a chartered accountant and was in line for multiple scholarships. Such was the image I had worked hard for.

Thirteen years after high school, I was a media innovation manager and named a Mail & Guardian Young South African (2015) due to my work in the continent leapfrogging African newsrooms to the digital era. At the age of 30, I played an unprecedented role presenting a case in the continent for open data, data liberation, drone journalism and demilitarization of drones for media watchdog purposes.

In short, life was good, and I was well on the path to becoming who I had packaged myself to be.

Unbeknown to many, however, I had a lifelong secret that was kept between family and close friends. I had “the calling”.

I began seeing when I was about 5 years old but that was a very uncomfortable reality for my parents, both professionals in the health industry who wished for me to succeed in a western profession, becoming anything but what my natural rhythm was gravitating me towards! In their books, the linear progression for me was education, career, awards and marriage.

Like I said, we are conflicted beings. You have to appreciate the further confusion as a young black Zulu woman in modern day South Africa, who had the privilege of threading the parallels of a fast paced global media innovation life, yet one who returned home to Zululand to a very contradictory existence with the same parents burning impepho (Zulu incense) during ancestor veneration ceremonies.

For example, I had a high place amongst Zulu maidens-in-training and celebrated my 21st birthday with bare-breasted peers singing Zulu songs of femininity, fertility and praying to find strong husbands someday. Yet, I returned every semester to Rhodes University, my Atlantic Philanthropies scholarship and a true poised Rhodesian life, constantly changing between these pockets of identities.

As I ignored the Spirit Voice speaking with me and continued globetrotting in my very successful career, hardcore healer-initiation dreams and visions troubled me on and off work in Nairobi. A metamorphosis was in progress and the caterpillar was slowly crawling into her cocoon.

I began to compare, over and over, my daily pursuits versus the real me and interrogated the global spiritual laws that lay in direct contention to my Nguni spiritual reality and sangomaship. I often wondered why the later had been forced into the crypts, its practitioners stereotyped as uneducated ‘witchdoctors’. A large part of me was scared to be one of those witchdoctors ostracised by society. As my gift sharpened and my sight hovered above the universe; the past, present and future merging into a singularity and a clear line of consciousness, I began to resent politics and The Church which set the status quo for all knowledge in the world, including religion. I resented those who continue to suppress the indigenous peoples and cultures which are deemed substandard to their own. In my mind, I was a hypocrite too, for I was in bed with the suppressors as I spoke the language of building data liberation mobile applications, whilst getting a salary from global aid conglomerates who didn’t understand authenticity of indigenous people, their knowledge and validity of their spirituality. These thoughts haunted me, and work took away so much time and derailed me from accepting who I was meant to be. A medium.

Needless to say, I quit my job in Kenya and returned home.

Fast forward to 2019, I am now a full time Gogo, a practising Sangoma, an African shamaness. Sangoma is the IsiZulu word for clairvoyant, medicine woman or healer.

However, my existential dilemma continues for I do not fit in amongst Sangomas. My gift is something that they do not understand too, for I was never initiated in the usual pipeline through a Master healer. My guides came directly to me whilst I was in isolation in Kenya (a long story, hence the mayhem leading to quitting my job). They taught me everything from divination, scanning a human body using my eyes, controlling the healing fire in my hands and much more.

I often laugh and say I’m the black sheep of the magic family. I’m still an outcast trying to find herself in the world. The greying elderly in my community call me an Umfembi, a rare pure-mediumistic necromancer healer who directly connects patients with their deceased loved ones to assist them with unfinished business. Others call me a Porous One, one whose body is so light that spirits occupy momentarily to tell their stories, deliver important messages and in the process acquire assistance to transcend to the next dimension. Others call me the Spirit Walker, one who uses channeling and chanting methods to heal, tapping into natural elements (water, fire, air, earth, heart) to perform ancient sacred spells ripping the time-space continuum. Others call me Mngoma, one who dances to the drumbeat to awaken old knowledge and ancestor wisdom. Others uMthandazi, a faith or prayer healer. Others iNyanga, an herbalist or alchemist. So, the list goes on. The pockets of my identity!

If you ask me, I have no idea who or what I am. I just know I am a different Nqobile from that girl I knew in 2015!

My brother has often said that if scientists really wanted to uncover the wanderings of the human soul and wanted to understand time travel, they should come to see me. On my end, I have come to accept that we do not always get what we want but find a way to get that which we need.

I needed to be brought down to the level of my people in order to appreciate the important things in life. The groundedness and beauty of human connection. The feeling of tapping into someone else’s world to fully understand why their lives are as they are, understanding the positive impactful role I could play to propel a struggling or heartbroken mother, a self-loathing person, an ailing child, a woman struggling to conceive, a young person who just can’t reach their dreams to their health, self actualisation and holistic wellness and balance. I won’t even mention the wonder of venturing into the lives of those who walked this world before us – the many souls who have called me their grandchild, sister, helper and friend.

Now I’m not scared anymore, I laugh more. Engage more. I can even have a glass of wine and debate about the absurdity of the fourth industrial revolution in current day South Africa riddled by high levels of unemployment, whilst I counsel a five-year-old child who sees gremlins under their bed, performing invasive spiritual procedures to bring his mind to rest. I am no longer scared or ashamed to be called Gogo with a slight bow or curtsy when greeted.

As for my brother, perhaps his is the closest definition to what I will morph into next. A Time Traveler. A Looper.

That I can definitely look forward to, for we should always accept evolution and constantly morph into our true selves, in the process, not forgetting to reconcile all our identities as we proceed. We need to tap into our true selves, no matter how ancient, in order to deal with postmodernity with unshaken groundedness. The two, modern and old, are not mutually exclusive, for in my spirit travel, I have learnt that time itself is not linear.  Our spiritual lives are a multifaceted connection, a network linking past, present and future selves in cryptic ways which create a holistic life experience. I had to go back in history and tap into the energy of my forebearers to become the healer woman I am today, a present state of being which will inform my future evolved self.

35 comments on “The Metamorphosis of Identity: for the caterpillar never knows it is a butterfly!

  1. Thembus on

    Thank you Nqo for this insightful piece into your journey,by walking in your path  you have allowed us to accept and embrace the gifts bestowed on us by God and our ancestors  unashamedly so.

  2. Hlengiwe Ngcobo on

    It would be boring anyway if we knew as caterpillars that we would change into butterflies.

    It is better to not know what we’d become in the future, because we’d make no effort to experience life fully. We would all be fixated to becoming this image we have already in our minds and miss out on the beauty of learning, human connection and gathering life testimonies in the process.

    What an interesting change. You have become an extraordinary being.

    • Zuzi Ngcemu on

      An interesting fact that one always transform to a better being when you go back to your roots.
      Truth be told when we were growing up our parents hardly ever enlightned us on, what it means being an African.
      And, yes it has caused grief and confussion having to walk the journey alone, having people judging or questioning how you knew you have a “calling”, or how do you know healers werent lying to you. But it grooms us into being beautifull butterflies.
      I am not yet a butterfly but i have drawn strength from watching how you master the space that you in presently.

  3. Nathi Nazo on

    @ Thembus; an insightful piece. And thought provoking…

    “A divergence later in life and due to exposure from my chosen journalism career, I could see myself owning a news wire network or a fully-fledged media satellite television company. I even imagined walking proudly in Silicon Valley as a digital media strategist.”

    This is a convergence – Fully – fledged Isigodlo, co-owned by your Ancestors, crisscrossing the country as a Medium/iSangoma/uMfembi strategist. Your work is broadcasted by the people for the people, uncensored by media conglomerates. You are Literated, open data (ripping the time-space continuum), What if you are into drone Shamanism and humanization of drones for Spiritual Sangomship Watchdog purposes?

    Yes Sangomaship watchdog, not an outcast…let the world itself find you. So many people’s journeys have been ripped off by unscrupulous Sangoma practices.
    Oooh! Let me enjoy my initiation in the comfort of my Lounge and my own ancestors be Master Healers…Ha…haaaa…kwaaaaa….I will morph into__________

  4. Zuzi Ngcemu on

    The journey of self discovery is lonely, painfull, confusing yet fulfilling. The wisdom that comes with all these things happening in one’s journey is amazing.
    If we were to know where we are going,then i dont even think many would want to live in the 1st place, because then we would know when are we leaving the physical world.
    Then what would be the point of waiting for something that you will enjoy for 1 or 2 yrs and then leave.
    We complain, yes, however the beauty of this journey is discovering the unknown and trust the unseen, just so you rely mainly on the Spirituals. I stand corrected.

  5. KHANYO on

    Wow mntakaMah. You have summarized it pretty well but than again you have always been good with words. Little do people know what you have been through. I for one I am proud for what you have accomplished and continuesly strive towards too everyday. And yes it wasn’t as easy for Mom and Dad to accept this as compared to us as your siblings. Maybe because they come from a different generation where such things are labeled as “imoya emibi”. But hey through it all, you have remained and seeked truth in this journey. What you do is amazing and the energy that I see in you everyday when you wake up to go help your clients and the sadness that dawns into you when one of them is in dir need….as for the rest of South Africa, it is very sad how we as black people know so little about our culture and look down upon it yet we continuesly seek acceptance within western culture and live false lives. It is never too late to know who one is and understand one’s true identity and not be ashamed or feel you need to explain yourself. Thank you for this article and I genuinely wish you the best in your journey as you grow and seek the truth and uncover your identity.

    • Shabnam Palesa Mohamed on

      What a powerfully and honestly expressed piece, a glimpse into some of the pockets of your BEing. Some of which I resonate with personally and spiritually. I would love to read more Nqobile. I am sure many people would benefit from having access to your thoughts, views, ideas and questions on metamorphosis and other subjects. As South Africans, we are SO proud of you Queen. Womandla!

  6. Mqondisi on

    Change is the only constant, so even our assumed identities, are momentary states of being.

    There is so much to us as human, more as spiritual beings. We have to trust that in the course of lives our true self will emerge and we will find ourselves at one with who we are meant to be.

    In the african spiritual context, we have to trust the guidance and wisdom of our ancestors to guide us to where the universe desires us to be. We might want to be nurses, doctors, lawyers etc, but the influence of a farmer ancestor might sway us on a path to tending to land and having an interest in farming. Do we refuse that possibility because it details from our packaged or imagined selves? There would be great loss there!

    So Faucault was right. Sometimes we shouldn’t define so much who or what we are but focus on the constant evolution we experience as human beings, that’s where the beauty and wonder of life is! We should always strive to be a better person the next day, and constant improvement of something means it is different from the original or what was known the day before!!!

  7. Stomzah Ndlovu on

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, some part of your story has enlightened things I couldn’t understand.

    Well this is amazing that we plan our lives not knowing that our forefathers made arrangements for us that we can’t even deny nor reject, it is a journey. I would love to see more of these articles….. we may not have the same journey but we do encounter same challenges that leads most to depression.

    Thank you Nqobile

    • Nomonde Nzimande on

      Gogo this is a compelling and insightful piece which I think speak volumes to the many of us that are on the journey of discovering & acquainting ourselves with our own spirituality.

      I have come to discover that Africa spiritually is multifaceted & presents its self in different forms with one intention, hence all the different facets that you embody.

      From the young girl that grew up right infront of me you have metamorphosised into an amazing healer with an extraordinary Gift

      Thank you Nqobile

  8. Mbekezeli on

    Wow! Very insightful my sister. You have come a long way, us as your family saw that the journey you were travelling was tough but one can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been for you personally to go through this journey of finding your identity in all of this. In life one has to discover their identity and belonging in that way you can develop a positive sense of who you are and that feeling of being valued as part of a family or community. You have helped a lot of people and I know for a fact they are all grateful for what you have done for them.

    You accepted your gift and instead of run I N away from it you embraced it which a lot of people don’t do they shy away from it. I’m proud of you sis, one has to trust in our African four fathers that they will guide us and lead us to discover our true potential through God. I love the fact that you stayed true to yourself, backed your culture and not at all embarrassed about what you do or who you are!!!

  9. Nontobeko Mbatha Nazo on

    Thank you for such beautiful writing that is finding resonance in many of our lives. I appreciate your openness to this course that has been suggested to be of evil doers for centuries. A lot of our forefathers closed all doors to the one part that defines truly who they are and one part that sorely belongs to them, their ancestors. Ultimately generations followed suit and as a result we were born in a discourse of unwanted, unappreciated, unrecognised and justifiably so angry ancestors. At this age I’m one and a lot of others seeking allignment with my very own people who lived in my lineage while playing a balancing act with a society and systems that were ingeneered to distance my children from our spiritual roots, just like how my grandparents and those before them did. This clearly shows how big of a fight we have upon us.

    But THANK YOU to your Guides, oGogo noMkhulu and many who work like you for your gifts that assist us to reconnect with our ancestors and to hopefully create the next generation of balanced beings who are one with themselves and their ancestors.

    Continue to walk with pride, in light and in peace with your Guides and Nations will one day celebrate a lagecy you would have left years after you are gone. Amen Gogo.

  10. Luleka Mhlanzi on

    What a journey!!!! Thank you for sharing, the way I feel so out of tune with my life, reading this gives me hope that nature always take care of itself. Hoping the wings of the caterpillar in me too are not far from growing on. Thank you for such strength and inspiration. Your calling truly is nothing I’ve seen before, I’m grateful to learn of such depth. I hope we you will give us more to read soon.

  11. Lama on

    I’m one of those weird kids who grew up in America – but thought it was normal to speak to spirits 🙂 back then, tv told me to call them “ghosts”! But in the comfort of my home, I would respectfully acknowledge their presence – sometimes even greeting my deceased grandparents aloud. Like the caterpillar I have always been a butterfly, but the journey of evolution is long and rough.

    We are the lost descendants of Colonialism’s unrelenting agenda to separate indigenous Africans from eachother and the riches of our roots – the most ancient knowledge on earth. We’ve been taught to accept the corruption of our culture – rejecting traditional African wedding ceremonies for “white weddings” – ignorant to the fact that we’re STILL participating in a traditional wedding – it’s just SOMEONE ELSE’S CULTURE. Why don’t we also trade an African wedding for a Chinese wedding or Mexican wedding??!! Africa must realize the indescribable beauty, purpose and innovative function of African culture before we abandon ourselves for European beliefs systems, Western values and American media – it is destroying our people daily.

    Stand strong young Gogo, whisper wisdom into the ears of time and remind her to remember us. Tell your feet that the journey’s just begun, and the road is long. Replenish yourself in the rivers of support flowing through your life. Feed your open heart with the love of many. May all you do, breathe, think and feel be filled with umoya oyingcwele. Siyathokoza Gogo, you are inspiring us all to listen to our calling – no matter what! Camagu!

  12. Gugu Gwamanda on

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I am also going through my own changes and I am very confused at the moment. I too have resigned from work and always questioning church and this westernisation that has taken over. I’ve been told before that I have a ‘calling’ but have ignored it. Now I’m beginning to realise more and more that I have it and it is the reason behind all my discisions. Thank you.

    • Nomfundo Msomi on

      Wow Nqobile, you had me wish that I could meet you and learn more about your journey, learn more about indigenous power. I love how you embrace your journey, what a great story!

  13. Lindokuhle Ndlovu on

    Im touched,.
    Im more anxious to complete my initiation,
    It makes so much sense,
    I had it all,
    Finding myself all over again has been a mission,
    Recalling my gran saying, kumele uyogqoka isphika esihlaza,
    I never understood,
    Now it makes sense,
    How she kept me so close to her,
    Indeed the elders sometimes know
    Its been one long year,
    I hav no intentions of giving up,
    I strive more to be fully active in my higher being calling!

  14. Thabisile Magubane on

    It is a blessing to have people who are sharing their stories willingly as that might help others.
    At home we have different calling I am a sangoma I have seen it in my dreams and I see things before they happen, but as you said it is not an easy journey.

    I really thank God ukwazana nabantu abazi wena ngoba bengingeke ngikwazi engikwazi namhlanje.

    I will be glad to visit you I believe I can learn more and understand a lot

  15. Ndabezinhle Ntuli on

    I took some time and read this piece, it’s very interesting even though I’m not yet finished due to work commitments. I will finish it after hours. We are who we are for a reason and it’s so important for us to understand ourselves and who we are in the society. You are a rare breed of Isangoma, which is very interesting as you received instructions straight from abadala.

    • Kwazi Ndlangisa on

      This is a very good read. Thank you for always sharing your experiences and insights with us. I am truely moved.


  16. Puleng Nomvula Ndlovukazi on

    Beautiful story. Why do I say it’s beautiful? It is because this is about self-re-discovering. The self – discovery which you have encountered sister, has opened up to your higher-self, which mostly is a challenge for some people who are going through life experiences but are in denial when things set them to the deep of the ocean. It’s also uncomfortable in many forms, shakes you up because it takes you out of the comfort zone and shows you things you have never seen before, the complexity of the Cosmos itself. On the other hand a lot of us are trapped in the spin of things, and some are Suffocating everyday without having a clear direction of their lifetime. The world and its systems has brought a burden, a heavy load that you are in continuous pressure in trying to find a way out to break the walls because we are in pursuit and the thirst of living in our true essence of freedom. This story you have shared to us, is very deep and insightful, and for me the perspective it leaves is so deeper that it speaks about a person finally finding their freedom and ofcourse true identity, roots and all the nutrients that make up the you as a Whole person.

    The metamorphosis process of the caterpillar was set to sit in the cocoon where there is pressure, surviving inside the cocoon in order for it to stand every storms and trials of the times in earth, yet the cocoon is also a symbol of protection so that it can grow well. And by the time ihluma izimpiko ibutterfly, developing its wings it has already absorbed all the knowledge it needs to take its rightful place when it’s out there in its purpose to fly showing the beauty of how it was created. You are that beautiful butterfly. Your journey towards getting your freedom is exactly what this story is about your life, and you have not only been smelling milk and honey but you are already having the taste of it, what milk and honey symbolises here is Wisdom. The wisdom you are going to share and give life teachings to the others and which you have already started. I’m glad you were taken through the whole process in order to realise your Higher Self which is a very beautiful thing to operate in. The Universe itself needs such enlightened souls who will channel things to light. You are touching many lives and surely making a greater impact to the living and coming generations who will learn from you. Be a great guide always.

    Thank you sisi, ausie, Nkosazane enhle eyaNqoba zonke izinto Nqobile, imbali enhle yoButhelezi noSibisi, Gogo Nomangungu. Uqhubeke njalo nokwenza umsebenzi omuhle waBaDala. Makhosi!!

    • King Daimon Antevasin on

      Reading this brings to mind writings of Thomas Moore and the story of his life: from being a monk to practicing spirituality, acknowledging ones roots, identity and their growth (evolving self).

  17. Nomveliso Portia Mbongwe on

    This is beautiful.This essay rocked my very core as I am sure it will do the same for many who are given the pleasure of reading it.If you see that as no great accomplishment ,think about how many authors can achieve this in an essay.Not many.You have always been a highly effective writer Nqobile but this….Needs to be read by the whole world.

    • Sandiso Sibisi on

      I always associated *sangomasm* with dark spirits & barbarism until I learned later in life that it is actually an artistic calling, spiritual journey & a resolution to many. I believe this is a highly classified information to share my sister, you are so brave Nqobile & I wish you all the best!

  18. Maphindy teamMaphindy sibisi on

    I’m touched sisi wami ,it’s big blessing to have you in our lives mtasekhaya u changed my life and m so proud of your talent God that gave you just keep it up and continue with your calling nethonga lonke likukhanyisele because ubizelwe kulento.God bless you sis …all the best#Nomangungu team

    • Thembeka on

      Wow what an insightful piece.what a have managed to cover a lot in just 1 essay. I can only imagine this on a, Wow and wow

  19. Carly on

    Nqo, thank you for sharing your journey with us. It seems life’s work to sort out our own voice from the compounding distraction of voices around us.

    Who are you? Ni tuwe he? In the Dakota language is always to be answered as we go it seems.

    What is clear to me through your voice in this piece, and knowing you in person, is your bravery to go towards your own calling. These are always walks alone but never lonely.

    Thank you for your courage and vulnerability to trust in yourself and to answer what the world asks of you.

    BIG love and much respect.

  20. Nhlanzeko on


    I’m still digesting. You are such an Inspiration_the epitome of humility, strength, bravery and pure honesty.

    You may find yourself tangled in the complexity of your life and you’ve beautifully laid it for us, but one thing is for sure it is beautiful nevertheless, and it will untangle you, to tangle you again in other beautiful, bright strings!

    Thokoza Gogo ❤

  21. Silindile on

    This is so captivating leaving one yearning for me about your journey. Your gift is rare and much needed in our society. I appreciate you, your gift, your strength and how you constantly Teach us about the unknown world of our fore fathers. Absolutely amazing sisi

  22. Sinempilo Nxele-Ngubane on

    Thank you Nqobile for sharing your journey. It is indeed true that once we embrace who we truelly are is when we find peace and the true meaning for our existence. Your article encourages us to be true and embrace the different callings that God and our ancestors have given us.
    I am so proud of you dear, i hope you find more fullfillment in your journey of healing and helping people because i believe your impact and contribution to peoples lives is amazing.
    May God continue to bless you and may your forefathers continue to guide you.

  23. Nomfundo on

    Thokoza Gogo. This was such an insightful and lovely article. Each person has their own experiences but it doesn’t take away one bit from what they’ve been called to be and do. May your journey continue to be blessed abd unfold for you to explore further and faf beyond the limitations of ordinary human understanding. Transcend.

  24. Mbali Maluleke on

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I feel that right now, I am on the path of discovering my path, I do resonate so much with you though. We’ll see what my ancestors have instore for me.


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