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A Photo project documenting a small rural zionist church in the mountains of Swaziland.
34 backers pledged $2,506 to help bring this project to life.

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The beginning of a sunday service
The beginning of a sunday service

Please help me return to Swaziland to continue my photo documentary about the Bekzandla Church of Zion.  In 2009 I set out to document HIV, in the country where the disease is most prevalent, Swaziland.   After a month of being in Swaziland I started to document the Bekzandla Church of Zion.  This church practices zionism, the largest religion in Swaziland.  Swaziland Zionism works on the principles of Christianity but also incorporates charismatic African traditions and healing methods. People often join these churches because "I was sick; the Zionists prayed for me; now I am well".

Jeffrey Mdalodze at a baptism waterfall.
Jeffrey Mdalodze at a baptism waterfall.

Jeffrey Mdalodze the head preacher of this church, invited me after meeting at a ritual cleansing in the mountains. Pastor Mdalodze specializes in beating and chasing demons out of individuals. While each service consists of singing, drumming, and preaching, at the end of each service Pastor Mdalodze places a strong emphasis on traditional healing. His healing methods range from speaking in tongue, going into trance, baptisms, exorcisms in the form of beatings, setting individuals on fire and creating toxic concotions for individuals to drink.  These healing methods are to help with illness, bad luck, or to chase away voodoo that has been put onto an individual

Child being exorcised
Child being exorcised

Having documented the Bekzandla Church of Zion for a year, I experienced how a group of individuals are dealing with HIV in a traditional, non western way.  Now returning to the church 2 years later I will continue to document their story. This next set of documentation will be how healing methods, people, and the overall church has changed in the past 2 years. I will also be incorporating interviews with individuals about their zionist experience.  As well as documenting I will be helping these individuals with any basic necessities and volunteering at the church though out the week.   This documentary is a life long commitment and with your help this will be the next step in helping this documentary happen.

Woman being exorcised
Woman being exorcised

Risks and challenges

Working in the area of Swaziland where I will be living, resources are limited and healthcare is relatively inaccessible. Therefore, my volunteer efforts with HIV patients are limited by the scarce resources available to me, which is a critical challenge. The second major risk to this project is the church's practices and their rituals, which frequently involve exorcisms that can go too far and become a life risk to those participating in them.

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    A big thank you! As well as exclusive updates.

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    A Paper Ornament from Swazi design, This will directly support women in Swaziland. http://www.quazidesign.com + exclusive updates on the project.

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    A 8 x 10 signed photograph from the project + exclusive updates on the project.

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    A 16 x 20 handwoven print from the project + exclusive updates on the project.

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Funding period

- (30 days)