South Africa is home to many religious practices: Christianity, Islam, Ancestors worship, Judaism, Hinduism, and a multitude of others. Through the centuries the doctrines, images, and icons of European-based Christian churches have had a profound influence on the spiritual beliefs of indigenous African cultures. In this exploration, I am portraying Christian practices from an African perspective and expressing the passion of a brand of faith that was born in both the West and in the African independent churches. This mixture of spirituality is rooted in the heart of African communities.

The Independent churches have nothing to do with classic dogma. It is in the fusion of Christianity and various elements of African rituals, such as dance, singing and drumming during the religious service, that allows one to witness the trance and mind-purifying practices. The majority of the members of the Independent church are from the lower middle class. They do not have formal places of worship. In most cases religious service are either held in school classrooms or at the home of a member. Sometimes community halls are hired for the occasion or the ceremony can take place under the shade of a tree. In the last few decades while there has been a major Christianization of Africans by the West, so too there has been a major Africanization of Christianity by Africans.

This project is part of a collaboration between myself and Rene-Paul Savignan, a photographer from Reunion Island. Savignan and I met in Bamako, Mali, during the second Recontres Africaines de la Photographie. Since this time we have been working between Reunion Island and South Africa on this project.

-- Andrew Tshabangu

All photographs copyright © 2006 Andrew Tshabangu