Photographer Kyle Meyer met Pastor Jeffrey Mdalodze after having been beckoned to him and his assistant pastor, at which point the artist was identified as a prophet whose arrival had been foretold by divine prophecy. Over the proceeding weeks, Meyer had observed from afar the rituals of the holy healing waterfall that stood ten minutes from his lodging in Swaziland, scarcely daring to draw closer.
Once he joined the men, he was baptized, a process that involved being forcibly submerged underwater while the pastor dealt blows intended to cleanse his soul. From this interaction, Meyer was welcomed into Mdalodze’s Zionist church, The Bekzandla Church of Zion, where he recorded the services, ritual healings, and exorcisms that make up his series Touch of God.
At the church, Meyer was party to acute, visceral happenings that sometimes left him emotionally drained for days at a time. Zionism sometimes prescribes the eradication of evil spirits through bodily harm, the idea being that demons will exit the mortal body in the face of pain.
Meyer explains the majority of Mdalodze’s services are consumed by the singing of hymns, personal testimonials, and ritual dancing, after which certain members come forward to be healed. The ailing individual is then encircled by a group of men and and eminent women—called the Seklobo— who run in circles around him until they enter a trance, brought on by a combination of teas with hallucinatory properties, a lack of oxygen, and strenuous running. They speak in tongues, and their words are interpreted by the pastor and a prophet.
Demons may be driven from the body in a number of ways, the most common being forceful beatings from the pastor and the ingestion and subsequent vomiting of fluids made from a combination of soda, tea, eggs, milk, candy, and water from the holy waterfall. In the most extreme cases, Meyer saw three women lit afire and the flames extinguished by beating. These women, he explains, rose after the exorcisms and appeared entirely normal, thanking the pastor for his help.
All images © Kyle Meyer
Via Photographic Museum of Humanity