Food: Ever heard of the Tata Gonda religious sect that wears sackcloth and ashes?

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One way or the other, everyone has the desire to ensure that justice prevails or that the world as it is seen is held to some “good-like standard”. If not the desire at least at one point in time people wish for the very unjust world to have a semblance of justice.

Morality and religion preach about the unjust world and how justice is needed and irrespective of how different religions are — Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity — they all seek to make the world a better place. However, this religion offers a different version and history in its fight against the unjust and sinful world.

In the province of Central Congo in the year 1989, Tata Gonda is said to have accepted a call from God to change his daily apparel to a sack. It is believed that God asked Tata Gonda to dress in the sack used to package goods. The apparel is said to be a symbol of humiliation before God.

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Decades on, the Prophet Tata Gonda, on whose life this traditional and Christian religion is built, has garnered followers who live their lives consistently dressed in sacks. These followers clothe themselves in sacks; the styles may differ, but the material used to sew these styles are always sacks.

Now dead, Tata Gonda is succeeded by a new leader who leads a good number of disciples from not only Congo but Angola as well. The followers of Tata Gonda live life away from prying eyes and are settled in Mbanza Nzambi where the Prophet Tata Gonda lived.

Apart from their special clothing, disciples of Tata Gonda do not bathe with water, rather, they perform a ritual every morning where they cover themselves in ashes; ashes are perceived as antiseptics. Again, they do not drink alcohol or smoke. They don’t wear luxurious clothing hence, the sackcloth they wear.

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Many may view their way of life as weird considering western civilization and the fact that they are very different from the practice of other religions which are adaptable with modernization, but this community views its way of life differently.

Irrespective of how different they live, they are very welcoming. This is how visitors of the group described it on, “In our opinion, their life is more like an alternative hippie life than a cult. We enjoy a great welcome and hospitality from the leaders of the followers of the prophet Tata Gonda.”

The followers of Tata Gonda feed on what they produce. They work together as a community to till their farms and develop their fishery. One key thing they do not joke with is prayer. They feast with, for and by prayer. It is essential; a core part of their life and they don’t shirk it. They are cut off from democracy as they live solely by autocracy, but respect and peace reign among them.

They are open to visitors and are very hospitable, but at the end of the day, their unique way of life is not lost on their guests as was shared on, “We are offered a hearty dinner with refreshments, rooms and a big breakfast. The talk goes on well into the night.”

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